by Melinda Gallo

Invitations for lunch and dinner

I recognize that I am fortunate. And, I wonder if by recognizing that I'm fortunate, I truly see just how much good fortune comes my way. Not only did Alessandro's parents invite me to their house for lunch for the second time this week, but I was also invited to another couple's place in Bellosguardo for dinner.

Living in Florence :: Invitations for lunch and dinner

When I called his mother to accept her invitation, she told me not to bring anything. The other day, I went to Alessandro's house for lunch because I had an appointment in that area. I had made a banana bread the night before and wanted to drop it off on my way to my appointment because his mother was kind enough to fix two pairs of pants and two dresses for me. She's a sarta (seamstress) and used to sew wedding dresses. She invited me to lunch after my appointment, so I went back afterwards. I felt as if I did bring something even though it was supposed to be for her fixing my clothes.

She won't accept any money for her work, and I feel a bit guilty about giving her more clothes to aggiustare (mend). When I arrived at her house, she said, "Ho dimenticato di dirti di portarmi la tua gonna nera." (I forgot to tell you to bring me your black skirt.) Alessandro must have told her that it was a little big on me. He told me to give it to her, but I just can't bring myself to do so if she won't take any money.

I talked to a friend of mine, Giovanna, who is a mother of two older boys. I asked her what I should do because Alessandro's mom won't take any money from me and I keep getting invited for lunch and she won't let me bring anything.

Giovanna said, "Tu sei la fidanzata di suo figlio e ti vuole fare la mamma. Basta portarle un regalino ogni tanto, ma per carità non darle soldi." (You are her son's girlfriend and she wants to mother you. Just bring a gift every now and again, but just don't give her money.) She explained that mothers don't want to be paid back. She told me that she's just so happy that her son is happy that she is showing her love and appreciation to me in the way that mothers do.

I can understand that, but I come from a Chinese-American family where you don't accept anything unless someone offers it to you at least three times. And, if you do accept a gift or service, you have to render that gift or service by at least twofold. I'm not used to people just wanting to give and give to me. I'm the type who loves to give as well, and I have realized that I'm not as good at receiving.

I remember the first time I met Alessandro's mom; I brought her a box of chocolates. And every time after that, I brought her something, like a cake or flowers. But now even Alessandro tells me, "Dai...non devi portare nulla." (Come on...you shouldn't bring anything.)

I arrived a little early in the end, rang the doorbell, and greeted his mother who was looking over the banister. After she closed the door behind me, I went to Alessandro's room to drop off my belongings, slipped off my shoes, and put on a pair of ciabatte (slippers) that his mother set aside for me to wear. I went into the kitchen where his mother was cooking, and helped her set the table.

Our conversation feels quite natural, so it's a true pleasure to just enjoy the meal and talk. Alessandro had to work, and arrived late for lunch while we were having dessert.

The last time I had lunch there without Alessandro being there, his mother gave me the last filet of fish that she cooked and had to make him a simple salad to eat. He looked at me while I was eating and said, "Mi butterano fuori fra un po'." (They'll kick me out soon.) He sees that they treat me incredibly well, and that makes him happy too.

I took a pisolino (nap) after lunch at their house, and then Alessandro took me back to my place to get ready for dinner.

My friends Kate and Daniele invited me and another couple to dinner. We ate out on the terrazza (terrace) where I took the picture of Florence. While we enjoyed our dinner, I kept looking behind my hosts to see the city. Sometimes, I had to force myself to stop looking because I kept getting lost in my thoughts as I looked out at the view.

When I got back home, I sat down on my couch and thought about how fortunate I am. To be invited to both lunch and dinner in one day, to have people in my life who are important to me and who care about me, and to feel such gratitude for everything that happens in my life. I'm counting my lucky stars...and they are adding up.

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