Monday, January 7, 2008

two different universes

Penitent Mary Magdalene

Penitence to me is futile and self indulgent. I come from that kind of stock that does not cry over spilled milk. What's done is done. I move on. I make things work. I think everyone else should just get over whatever they're whining about.
I wish life really was so simple. Much of the time it is, and other times it's complex and impossible. I've written here a thousand odes to my husband. We married fifteen years ago on a whim, and I won the lottery that day. I would do so again ten times, a hundred times over.
I went to Italy and fell in love with him, and when we married I really didn't understand a word of what was being said to me. I nodded and said sì whenever prompted, and as we returned to our house together I knew that we had somehow just created a new family. At that moment my family became me and my husband, and would soon include our two children. The Italian idea of family is assai differente, and I had no idea.
I must admit that as I write this I'm having a hard time not feeling a hint of shame, but the truth is that since my father in law passed away, my husband's family in Italy amounts to a tribe of banshee women, bleating goats looking for a billy, harping, crowing hens kicking in the dirt. These women call and gripe to my haggard husband daily. They haunt him from across the Atlantic like specters. They now have no one to repair their furnaces, patch their roofs, cut their wood, take their shit. They do not consider my husband's true hardship being here, living in a different language and culture, starting over from scratch in every way. I know he is innately happy to be so far away. They are inherently selfish and just want him to come home where he belongs, to live in the same town where he was born and from where he has been fleeing all of his life.
I feel a welling up of something like boiling lava in my chest when they call, and realize that my difference from them is so great that it's beyond comprehension. When I was living in Italy I often had the experience of being treated as an unknowing outcast. Many people assumed that my physical distance from my mother and father was either the result of some trouble in famiglia, or some kind of catastrophe... they must be dead, I must be an orphan. My independence was a mystery, my way of being unnatural. The deeply rooted cultural differences between our two families were so great that the only way I could deal with them was to ignore them. I loved my husband dearly and wanted for no other, as is true today. I am never pentient for a moment. But make no mistake, we come from two different universes. If the truth be known, I must say I prefer mine.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Whether it's cross-cultural between two nations or simply cross-cultural in terms of say, a Yankee family with DAR connections and an immigrant family of Jews and Irish who always toiled loudly, melding two families can be a challenge.

I'm sorry for you and MacGuyver that you're going through this, and I hope his relatives find peace through another channel soon.

sognatrice said...

I can't tell you the number of times people have referred to my mother as "poverina" because I have abandoned her. Mind you my mother is a 61-year-old woman who is a registered nurse and spends nearly all her free time with my brother and his family, which includes two grandchildren--and we talk nearly every day on the phone.

On this side of the ocean, lucky for me that my OH is the youngest of 7 so his parents don't turn to him (or me) for much (and the extended family kind of keeps to themselves); he's still considered the baby at 29. Seems that sometimes cultural oddities (as I see them at least) can work on our favor ;)

I hope, at least, that your hubby doesn't feel guilty. So not worth it.

And I like your universe too :)

anno said...

You've hit a nerve here, you have no idea...

I hope time & distance diminish the clamor from abroad, and that the order of your universe is soon restored.

Fourier Analyst said...

One of the things I have learned about the Italian nature (my DH is half-Italian, half-German) is that they show love in a different fashion. Romantic love is similar to our western concept, though is accompanies by many more gestures and displays of affection. But familial love is demonstrated by complaining. Your hubby's family is showing him how much they love him by complaining about how bad life is without him. To do otherwise would be disrespectful. I a sorry to say but they may never call with good news. The "Jewish mother" stereotype has nothing on the "Italian mamma". Those apron strings are long and strongly entwined. And unfortunately there is probably little you can do to change this. Just try and remember that "I love you" not only sounds different in another language, but feels different in another culture.

But of course, you probably already know this worldly creature that you are. Glad you can vent with us in a "safe" space!!

(Remind me to tell the story of how my future MIL cried for 2 hours on the phone when my DH told her he had proposed to me. (sigh))