My plan for this week was to write two fantastic blog posts to make up for the one I missed last week. (I spent last weekend with my family, drinking too much wine and celebrating my brother Bob’s birthday instead of diligently writing.) Thank you Patty (Bob’s wife) for planning the whole thing and getting me back there.
But nature said, “Nah, we want to throw you a curveball, how about a nice, painful toothache instead?” So, I’ve been sitting around whimpering like a puppy and taking far too many Advil for my own good for the past three days. I’m embarrassed to say, I actually cried on my emergency phone message to my dentist.(This from a woman who got through childbirth twice without a peep.) My voice got all squeaky and I could barely get out my phone number it hurt so bad. The only perk is the Tylenol with Codeine – it knocks me right out.
Today, I go to the Endodontist again, where I will be slowly tortured. They’ll place freezing cold sticks against my teeth to figure out exactly which tooth is bothering me.(Teeth are sneaky, they send the pain in a different direction, just to mess with you.) How will the Dr. know? I will leap out of my chair and scream when the ice stick he’s holding touches the right tooth.
All this is just one big excuse for why I don’t have my blog post written this week. I am filled with guilt, so I am re-posting one of my all time favorite posts about how my mom weeded out suitors for me. I hope you enjoy it and I’m sorry I’m doing re-runs, but once I am healthy again, I’ll be a writing machine.
It’s no surprise that I was 32 when I married. Frankly, I’m amazed I was that young because my mom had a way of winnowing out the weaker prospects pretty quickly.
Any suitor who visited had to be warned about her because her childlike frankness left people stunned. To protect myself, I sat at the table with her, laughing too loud so whomever she was talking to knew she was kidding (she wasn’t). This rarely worked and made me look like a nervous hyena.
If Mom didn’t like someone, she’d look at him a long time, focusing on features she didn’t like, then say things about him to me in Italian, so he couldn’t understand. But it was almost worse if she did like him.
I had a friend, I’ll call Sam; a handsome, personable, Italian, Catholic optometrist, who unwittingly visited at Christmas. Mom decided he was perfect.
Because he was in the doctor category, he bypassed all qualifying rounds as she launched into questions regarding his approximate wealth, then segued into her own health problems. She punctuated the conversation with what a wonder I was, and that any man who got me would be lucky.
When it was time for dinner, Mom held up her hands and yelled, “Wait! “Letta da dottor eatta first!” then tried to get everyone to stand behind him at the buffet table.
She begged my brothers to take lots of pictures so she could show him off to her friends, even though we weren’t dating. We have photographs of Sam, with everyone in the family. If she could have trapped him in the wine cellar and forced him to marry me, she would have.
One of my best friends, who I’ll call Chuck, actually got past her inspections, but not without her telling me, in Italian, (with him sitting right there) that he was nice and she really liked him, but he was going bald and she didn’t like his beard or the way he dressed. Then she said, “Chukka, you’re a nize a lookin a boy, ha come a you gadda wear dose baggy panz? You make enuffa money, can’d ju buy summa nize a panz?”
I forbade her to say anything more and she almost lasted a whole 15 minutes. But as we were leaving, she was nervously pacing, then exploded with, “Eeeeefa I wassa your moder I would a sneak into your room late atta night anna cut offfa datta damma beard!”
Miraculously, Chuck remained my friend, our parents got to know each other, and one bright summer day they stopped by for a visit.
As a rule, I never left anyone alone with my mom, even for a minute — it was like leaving a toddler with a hand grenade. But we’d been friends so long, I thought she couldn’t possibly embarrass me further. So, as Chuck and his mom settled in the dining room, I ran to take clothes out of the dryer.
They were sitting at the dining room table munching proscuitto, cheese and salami and drinking homemade wine. Our dads were in the garden discussing tomato plants, something Italian men feel compelled to do. I left feeling confident.
Less than three minutes later, as I made my way up the stairs, Chuck motioned frantically that we had to talk privately. We barely made it to the hallway when he doubled over in laughter claiming my Mom almost made him pee his pants. I braced myself.
He said conversation had gotten a little quiet around the table, and my mother, looking to fill the gap and never at a loss for words, said,
“Do you know dat inna 43 years offa marriage Robert hassa never seena me naked?”
I sank to my knees moaning, “Nooooooooo!” Spinsterhood would clearly be my destiny.
My mom came of age when nice women apparently didn’t want to look as though they’d ever heard of sex, let alone participate in it. Sex was more of a duty back then, like scrubbing filthy socks. So I guess this was a grasp at dignity for a woman with five children. Our neighbor, Mrs. Smeltzer, confessed to me she’d heard this story too.
Chuck said he and his mother both paused for a moment, trying not to laugh, but wondered how to respond. “What do you say when somebody says that?” he asked me. I couldn’t answer — I was still on the floor whimpering.
At a loss for words, they both silently munched their salami, smiled and said, “Oh, that’s nice.”
(I feel guilty for not having cooked something, but since it’s summer and the tomatoes are amazing now, you simply must make this ridiculously easy, but delicious recipe, then dip your bread into the leftover juices. It’s the essence of summer and goes great with pasta with pesto.)
Fran’s Favorite Fresh Tomato Recipe
2 large vine ripened tomatoes
6 large leaves of fresh basil
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar ( or more to taste)
Sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Rinse and chop the tomatoes into medium sized chunks. Place them in a bowl. Rinse, dry, and roughly chop the basil leaves (remove spines from basil leaves if very large). Sprinkle basil in bowl with tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, sprinkle with sea salt, and pepper, toss and serve. Don’t forget to dip your bread in when you’re done!