La Mamma

Lingo School - La Mamma

Lingo School – La Mamma

Ciao a tutti,

Sooner or later I would have ended up talking about one of the most iconic characters of our country: LA MAMMA, a woman who should be a politician, run the government and look after her children very well. Before I even start talking about who the typical Italian MAMMA is, I need to dismantle some stereotypes:

  • not all the Italian mammas can make pasta
  • not all have dark hair
  • not all can iron the children’s shirts
  • not all come from Sicily.

I have seen mothers buying ready-made meals, not sobbing when you leave home at 18, being thin, blond and tall with a Californian look. The country has evolved, slowly, but it has! Yet, there is still a bunch of MAMME – mammas who will always do what they have been famous for, for decades.

It is almost a fact that a woman, no matter what her nationality is, as soon as she becomes a mother, she will love her children unconditionally. But what distinguishes an Italian mother is the belief that, once they are born, SHE OWNS her children. They will be her property from day one and her big mission in life will be to KEEP them fed, warm, strong, happy, loved and mostly…at home. When the CORDONE OMBELICALE – umbilical cord – never gets cut (at least symbolically speaking) the child becomes a MAMMONE – mommy’s girl but more likely mommy’s boy and he stands the chance of sharing a Sunday lunch with his mama at the age of 40. You can tell if a man is still living with his mom by the way he wears his clothing: he is absolutely impeccable, at any given time. He is never worried about hugging, kissing, entangling his body in any “bella donna” he meets, because he knows there is a row of ready to wear shirts, waiting for him in his cupboard. His pants, and sadly his denims and his shorts too, are neatly pleated with a straight mathematical line, which goes from the pocket all the way down to the edge of the pants where a lavender smell socks are matching the most beautiful polished shoes.

Also if you date a man who still lives with his mother, you will soon realize that he cannot cook. What for? Mama has done the same successful recipes over decades. Please don’t ask her to change 1 ingredient!. She loves sticking to traditions and carrying the recipes forward from one generation to the next, especially during festivities and birthdays. These dishes then become the signature dishes for your whole life.

I still remember one of my mother’s hits:
“tagliatelle in brodo con i fegatini “ – tagliatelle in a broth with chicken liver. We used to get it for Christmas, Easter, on birthdays and fortunately not at Ferragosto (15th August) because too warm for it. I have also noticed that one of MAMMA’s main obsessions, carried over for the entire duration of her child’s growth, is the constant fear of “PRENDERE FREDDO” literally “ to take cold” in the meaning of being exposed to draught. Italian mamas believe that if you are exposed to the cold weather, even if it is only a “colpo di vento” – breath of wind – it is a question of time that you will get sick and maybe die.I say that because there is always space for serious drama and exaggeration in an Italian family and to make a joke of it will only make it worse. That is why Italian children are very unlikely to walk barefoot unless they grow up on a farm, and even there they will surely have sandals and socks already prepared and waiting at the entrance door. I am one of those. Actually I am even worse since I grew up with socks in the kitchen, in the socks drawer, below the cutlery and the napkins drawer. I still remember my mother’s voice reminding me to METTERE LE CALZE – to wear socks – and screaming at me if she saw me opening the fridge without shoes. I basically grew up without feeling the grass and believing that I could die while grabbing the cheese from he fridge barefoot.

When an Italian mother has to tell you off or simply reminding you of something, she doesn’t necessarily have to be NEXT to you. She actually prefers talking to you from far away, resorting to a high pitch voice to get your attention and most likely to embarrass you socially. Often she screams even if you are standing in front of her. Who can forget those holidays at the Riviera, where all we wanted was to play with water by the shore with the other foreign BAMBINI? We were so lost in our cheerfulness that we always made the same fatal mistake of not running first to our mom’s OMBRELLONE – sun umbrella – and getting dry by her loving arms around our towel. Her screaming voice from afar must have been the beginning of our therapy against “figura di merda” – literally -image of shit – in the sense of feeling bad from embarrassment.

Once mamma lets the child go and live his/her own life at different terms from the script, a new fascinating mechanism of CONTROLLO kicks in and sees the gentle loving mother becoming a maniacal investigator. Children are not allowed to leave the country without a big promise: to check in at the hotel and have a drink on arrival is far less important than CHIAMARE A CASA – calling home. If it is not done SUBITO – immediately – there is a risk of being contacted by embassies, a work colleague, universities chiefs or your newsagent.

I would like to finish by saying that Italian mothers get what they want, because they are very strong and smart women and they are actually the ones wearing the pants at home. Yes, they care about their children disproportionately and yes, their need to nurture them sometimes ends in torture, but they are always present. They actually even allocate time to pray with a rosary or light a candle if you have a difficult exam to pass. What more do you want?

I will leave you today with a quote by Roberto Benigni, an Italian actor and producer:

La mamma è la parte più femminile dei genitori
Mom is the most feminine side of parents

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