Last night I had the honor of attending the annual Christmas dinner for Lorenzo’s employer. The company owners (aka the ‘rents) treat their employees well, this being the fourth dinner I’ve had with them in the last year.
The special thing about this one though is that it was the first time I met everyone last year. I met his mom and dad on the same day as his sister and all his colleagues. The dinner fell the day after I arrived last year and as overwhelming as it was to attend a traditional Italian dinner with all the fixings and loud Italian banter, it was a great introduction. That was my first glimpse into the hospitality that I would experience for the next year and (who knows) maybe many more to come.
I still remember on the first night, the way they took me into their arms. Everyone asked me questions, whether it was in basic English or through translation via Lorenzo, everyone was interested in making me comfortable. Joking with the waitress as she turned to me in an attempt to band all women together the whole table laughed and said “No, no, é Americana, Americana!” saving me from the embarrassment of not even knowing how to say I don’t understand.
Each dinner I see a progressive change in the way people choose to interact with me, now they are less interested in my life which I suppose comes from them spending eight hours every day with Lorenzo and pretty much getting the idea. Now they are more interested in simply joining me into the conversation, although I can still feel the hesitance when it comes to assuming I understand it all. For the most part with them, I don’t, but it’s nice to be acknowledged.
Every dinner, work or family, Lorenzo’s mom always takes me under her wing being sure to sit with me so that she can make any necessary translations and generally just be sure that I’m not left out in the course of the four and a half hours it takes to get through an Italian dinner. Even though in those long four hours, I probably am joined into a conversation for an average of 45 minutes, I never feel left out. The expressiveness of the Italian culture includes me into the conversation even if I don’t actually know the topic.
It’s this kind of happy evening that makes me so content being exactly where I am. Sure it isn’t perfect, and there are times when I am desperately lonely and lost in the language but an evening with La Mia Famiglia can always bring me back. The funny thing about these events? I also get incurably nervous right before and Lorenzo likes to make bets that I’ll suddenly become conveniently ill just as it’s time to head to the big dinner. My little secret is that it is, not-so-secretly, just a fear of that stupid kissing game!
I hope that this office dinner is a nice preview of what’s to come this Saturday at my very first authentic all-Italian Christmas celebration!
That’s a post you can look forward to, as I’ve been told (by my fabulous hairdresser Antonio) it is quite different from the American celebration!