I was talking to my Mom on the phone a few months back when Ciocia asks to talk to me. The conversation played out like this:
“Czy słyszałeś od kogoś?” Did you hear from anyone? Ciocia asks.
This is not an unusual question. I am the one in the family who keeps in touch with my cousins in Poland via internet, often retelling bits of family news that is passed on through email, Facebook or Skype.
“Nope.” I say.
I can’t quite tell if the silence on the phone is from Ciocia not hearing me (she’s hard of hearing) or whether she got distracted and is watching something on Home Shopping Club.
“No email?” she says.
“Why, are you expecting to hear from someone?” I ask
I could hear my mother in the background. Her voice drops into alpha Polish octaves and mutters things like, “Oh. Uhh. Uhh. You just had to, didn’t you! Uhh. You had to. I told you not to say anything. I told you. Now you’ve done it. You didn’t have to tell her.”
I picture her motoring around the kitchen in a state of contained fuming.
“Co? Co!” -What? What! hisses back Ciocia.
Now they’re bickering.
Watching my mom and my aunt fight is like watching two alley cats claiming the same ground. When one of them walks out of the room, the other will start up the argument an hour later, even though an icy silence has created a crevasse between them.
One last claw swipe into the air, just to let the other know they have not been defeated.
I’ve never seen better fighters with so few words and no profanity. They make can make a common word a searing insult. As I’m listening to them bicker, the alarms turn on in my head.
Red alert. Red alert.
“Cioooooocia, who did you give my email to?”
“Nice boy from church.”
Do you hear the slap on my forehead?
She copied my email from the info card I left for my parents before I moved.
“Daj mi. Daj mi.” Give me. Give me, says my mom as she grabs the phone from her.
“You gave my email to some guy at CHURCH?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong with it? There are so many things wrong with this.”
“He comes to church every week. He dresses nice. Very polite. Nice guy. I can tell. Good person.”
Do you hear more forehead slapping?
My mother’s mouth moves away from the receiver. She is growling at Ciocia again telling her- I hope you’re happy now. My mom hoped for a surprise attack.
I ask my mom to start from the beginning so that I can strategize damage control.
My aunt ran into the ‘nice guy from church’ at Market Basket and said, “Hi. I no see you in church today.”
“I went yesterday.”
“Oh yeah” said Ciocia, “You single? I have niece for you.”
Leave it to Ciocia to get right to the point.
What the stunned nice guy from church was thinking when my Polish 85 year old aunt and mother walked up to him in a grocery store, is both fun and horrifying to speculate. Thankfully, he never wrote so we were both spared the awkward.
My Mom and Ciocia mean well. They really do. How can I be mad at Ciocia for saying “you single? I have niece for you.”
If she weren’t so damn funny, I’d be mad at them for real.
It makes me wonder about something I hear my mom say to me once in a while, “I know you, better than you know yourself.”
When I see my friends watching their young toddlers grow, I think to myself how that might be possible. They know their child’s temperament, strengths and weaknesses. Reactions can be anticipated. Challenges prophesized. I told you so, said or held back in an effort to allow their kids to learn lessons. Each of these things folds into itself in a careful geological layer.
My Mom and Ciocia have the advantage of watching me become myself. So could they in fact, actually choose someone right for me? I mean maybe a better question to ask is, could they do worse than me? Their ears prick up at the first sniff of something gone off. They wouldn’t stick around to ask questions and contemplate why.
Those are instincts I have learned the hard way.
I have never been pressured by them to get married nor have children, so for them to concoct a Mission Impossible plan makes me wonder.
What if they can they see something I can’t?