Sunday, November 3, 2013

"What Kind of An Italian Name is 'Kevin'?"


"He's Irish, Mom."

I was the first in my family to marry someone who was not of Italian descent. (This was back in 1981… 32 years still married, so it looks like it might work out!) I always thought of my family as being contemporary, respecting the values, traditions, and beliefs of others; but for whatever reason, everyone in my family (before me) had married someone "Italian." We respect our Italian heritage, but we are American. When I was a teenager, I asked my paternal grandmother, “Grandma, you’re Italian, right?” She answered, “No. My mother was Italian.” “Grandma, how could your mother be Italian, but you’re not?” “I’m American. My mother was born in Italy. She was Italian. I was born in America.” I found such beauty in that statement. I’ll always remember that exact moment. Sitting in my grandma’s kitchen. Lots of deep conversation always took place around her kitchen table.

A bunch of years later I brought my new boyfriend home to meet Gaetana Parrini Tomasetti (my grandma). My dad (Pasquale III) and boyfriend, Kevin, sat in the den. I went in to the kitchen to get them some snacks. My grandmother, quite innocently, said, “What kind of an Italian name is Kevin?” The question came from such a sincere place. It never occurred to her that a boyfriend of mine would be anything but Italian. My mom answers, “Oh, Mom, he’s not Italian. He’s Irish.” All 4 feet 8 inches of my grandma (5-feet-even with her hair all coiffed) questions, “He’s what?” “He’s Irish, Mom.” “Oh, okay.” We were married shortly after that. Following my wedding, my cousins all married “non-Italians”: more Irishmen, Englishmen, Middle-Eastern, Asian...; all religions: Jewish, Methodist, Protestant... Grandma loved them all.

My Irish Catholic mother-in-law (mother of seven sons and one daughter) was equally-surprised when she learned I was not Irish. I had a challenge on my hands. You see, one of Kevin’s brothers had been stolen away by an Italian girl he met while serving in the Navy. (That son LIVED in Italy.) Enter me. Things were not looking promising for this “I”talian girl. Funny thing is, I opened the flood gates…seven sons, five Italian daughters-in-law…and THEN a Jewish daughter-in-law. We laughed when the youngest son brought home a Jewish girlfriend. What would my mother-in-law say? Well, she was welcomed with open arms, as were all the other daughters-in-law. My husband and I will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary this coming February 14th...Valentine’s Day…such romantics! My youngest brother-in-law and his Jewish bride celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary today. We are one big, happy, league-of-nations family.  

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed reminiscing. And now, for your listening pleasure, one of my favorite songs: "Get Together" by the Youngbloods.  Ahhh, I bet you thought I was going to say my favorite song is "Pepino, the Italian Mouse." ;)

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