Apr 2012

Easter Lunch

easter bunny

“I can get a better phone any time I want…I could get one tomorrow. Well, I could on Tuesday, the stores are closed tomorrow, but I could do it!” With that Anna Maria stormed out of the room, or at least stormed as much as I have ever seen.

“Is she angry?” I asked Luciano who was laughing.

I could tell she was agitated since she had switched to dialect, something she does unconsciously when excited. After all, Italian is as much a second language for her as it is for me and so she needs to concentrate to speak it. And while I can get the gist of the conversation in dialect, the details escape me.

“No. Well, maybe. She has just had enough teasing.”

Zio Danilo was laughing too. He’d had the honor of pushing his sister just a bit too far, suggesting that her mobile phone was outdated. After all, it had no loudspeaker function and certainly could not take photos. He whipped out his fancy sliding phone, 3 megapixels, and took a few calls…I think to show off. But in fact, being Easter Sunday, Luciano’s Uncle Dan was in high demand. He had just finished leading the mass over in San Polo, but the much-loved priest in town for the weekend is constantly fielding invitations. I think we were pretty lucky to score his presence for Easter lunch. It did not stop Anna Maria, however from being peeved at his comments on her technological limitations.

These criticisms were pretty strong coming from a man who did not own a cell phone until two or three years ago. People used to track him down by calling house phones from San Polo to Mareno…sometimes even during lunch, the epitome of poor education.

“Her battery lasts 11 days, Zio.” Luciano chimed in, “I am lucky if mine lasts 11 hours…”

“Eleven minutes,” I muttered.

“She must never talk to anyone. Wait, I have to take this call.”

Anna Maria had rejoined us, sitting at the table glaring at her brother as Giancarlo made the coffee.

“I talk on the phone when I need to. I am not attached to it all day long.”

Zio Danilo hung up and gazed at his younger sister.
That was a tense moment.

“How many megapixels do you have on your camera, Anna Maria?” I asked innocently enough, as if to change the subject. Anna Maria brightened.

“Eight, I have eight megapixels.”

“Really?” Zio Danilo was visibly impressed. “You have a serious camera.”

“Yes.” She was happy. Everyone relaxed. Indeed she had been the family photographer last summer when I left my old camera with her to record the progress on the house next door; a job she took very seriously. Now of course, Anna Maria was incapable of operating her hand-me-down camera without my going through the steps every time she wants to take a picture. And I am convinced she does not know what a megapixel is, but that did not matter, nor was I going to mention that fact. For the moment she has won the technology spitting match between siblings whose childhood had been spent in a house with a cow in the front yard and no electricity.

Appeased, Anna Maria turned and pulled a piece of paper out of her drawer. This usually means that she has written down some English word that she heard or read and wanted to try her pronunciation out on me…to see if I can figure out what she is saying. I have heard
leepstic, (lipstick) ies ui chen (Yes, we can) and hot pants (that one I got). I usually can guess, but sometimes she catches me off guard.


Waterboarding.” She repeated.

Ok, she surprised me. “Do you know what that is?”

“Yes, it is when you simulate drowning by holding someone’s head under water.”

“Well, that is not really simulation, is it?” Luciano commented dryly.

Anna Maria shot him a look and again switched to dialect. I missed the details, but it was my impression that she clarified this particular method of torture, her expertise on the topic in fact, alarming. I assured her that I knew what it meant. Giancarlo poured the coffee and Zio Danilo stirred in his three spoons of sugar.

books tkamb

“Ok, how about this: book crossing

“Ok, that I have no idea.”

“Oh I know that, it is a system of book exchange!” Of course Luciano, sworn lover of books, knew this word.

“Serena does not know it because books are being replaced by digital versions,” Zio Danilo had succeeded in getting the conversation back to technology. “In fact, they are talking about replacing all the books in the library with a digital format of some kind.

Anna Maria said nothing…probably digesting this alarming step into the latest brave new world that she had no hope of pretending to understand.

Zio Danilo didn’t even slow down. “My first book in English was about a dog in Alaska, I think, that went back into the wild…what was the name of that book?”

Call of the Wild. That’s not an easy book.” I was impressed, but not really surprised. The Italian school system for some reason has not gotten beyond 19th century literature and most people I have met have read Oscar Wilde, Emily Bronte and Jack London, but know nothing of John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner; T.S. Eliot, David Foster Wallace…or Danielle Steel, for that matter.

“Have you read
Call of the Wild, Anna Maria?” One more jab from Uncle Dan?

“No, but I think I can find it at the Mareno library.”

“Do you think they have it?”

“If they don’t, someone should burn it down.” Luciano has strong feelings about the classics.

Now that we were back on books, real books, both Anna Maria and Giancarlo could relax. Voracious readers since their retirement, they sit side by side at the kitchen table, reading every afternoon. .She will finish any book she starts, even if she hates it. It’s a commitment thing. Anna Maria and I read
To Kill a Mockingbird together, I in English and she, of course, in Italian. We discussed Atticus and Boo Radley over the fence last summer. And yes, she has read every book Danielle Steel has ever written and finally tackled Promessi Sposi, the Italian classic novel, so that she could be in the know for television game show questions

Her brother knows this and, being the peaceable, albeit mischievous, priest, he sat back and smiled across the table. The rain came down in sheets outside and the blossom laden trees across the street danced in the blustery wind…strange weather for Easter. But harmony reigned once again at the kitchen table, whose smooth surface shone with years of elbows, book covers and warm banter…in any language.