Saturday, September 26, 2009


Don’t ask me why we eat lasagna for Christmas. We have no Italian heritage, just the normal tasteless American variety. My mother heard once that some people have it as tradition, so, devoid of our own, she debased herself, stole it, called it ours. Just like Mom—she often scavenged to cobble together our family life. Like a street person pushing a cart, collecting sellable scraps. Right by the front door is a big mirror with steel flowers filigreed around the perimeter. This was lifted from an evicted neighbor’s belongings. Always look before you go out, she reminded us, to make sure you’re together. This became the family’s unwritten creed. Christmas arrives and I walk in, look at that timeless mirror that needs a shine, see the peeling wallpaper around it. The smell of lasagna—oregano and sausage—was strong. Ciao!, she says, hands up, suddenly Italian. Perhaps we could watch a Godfather marathon, maybe act out scenes from Moonstruck. My brother lives far away and never comes. No one else, often it’s just mom, dad, and me. Sitting at the table, eating a reserved meal that wasn’t ours. Those boisterous large Italian families—fiction for us. In the mirror there’s the three of us, holding hands tightly if only we could.

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