Following Lola’s subtle request, I will write something about ‘The Folks’.
I was, in a way, slightly apprehensive about meeting them. We had been together a long time. F doesn’t really say much about what he may have said to them. I know, before I meet them, certain things.
I know his father has been ill, a year or two ago and has lost a lot of weight. I know his Mum cooks. I have heard the story about S, the ex, begging F to stop the food coming (as he couldn’t say ‘no’). I know his sister talks. I know nothing about his brother (before we meet, really). I know there are a myriad of aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins, etc.
I know his mother and father ran a dry cleaning and laundry place in the town and are now retired.
To be honest, it’s difficult to remember exactly how it was when I first met them. They are all, without exception (well, except for 1) utterly charming and so nice to me …… it seems. I say ‘it seems’ since a) I don’t speak Italian very well and b) apart from his niece (his sisters child), no one speaks English at all! This makes for, shall we say, short and shallow conversations.
So, let’s see. His father is a really sweet man. Kind, gentle and, well, tiny! But then, I guess, F isn’t exactly tall. He sports a moustache that would have been perfect in the 30s or 40s. He is slim (although F says he used to have a ‘pot belly’ but it is hard to believe. He cooks. He cooks some wonderful stuff. Now he kisses me on both cheeks as Italians do. I’m not sure if it means anything or not. He tries to hold conversations with me. I try to hold them back. His Italian is better than mine!
His Mum is lovely. She is the local ‘help everyone that needs it’ person, apparently. She is not thin but not huge either. A typical (for those of you from the UK) Italian Mum. When we were going to stay at the House, she immediately went to find some old curtains that we could use to put down on the floor for the dogs. Apparently, she likes me because I eat – i.e. I eat more than other people. This is true, I suppose. Although I have mentioned it before, I will say it again – when she cleaned the House for us, she made up only the one bedroom, with a double bed. She knows, of course.
Both his Mum and Dad have stopped mentioning S – at least in my presence. Not that it bothers me at all, but it is worth noting. It is almost as if, until I had been ‘sussed out’, I needed to know there was competition. It’s OK, I knew – if only because F did the same sort of thing. Now I am accepted or, at least, it feels like I have been. I shall, of course, remain polite and nice for many years yet – not that I get impolite or horrible, ever – just that I don’t get out of the ‘being on my best behaviour mode’! It’s a thing that I do.
They live in a large flat (for Italy). I’ve seen the other houses the family lived in as a child. Not a large family. Parents and three kids. Middle class as they had a shop/business although my parents would have looked down on it as something lesser, no doubt, even if my mother’s mother was a shopkeeper.
Johnny and A, I have described before. They were truly fantastic. Lovely people. I learnt afterwards that things have not always been rosy between F & Johnny and, from what I am led to believe, they didn’t speak for years. Although twins and, although they have a similarity, they aren’t really alike. I think (but this is only a guess on my part), there is some envy on Johnny’s part. F, after all, left home, has lived in the US, the UK and Austria, travels for work (and that is always exciting to outsiders) and, having left the hometown, has shirked his responsibility for ‘the family’ and, of course, like the prodigal son, every time he returns, the fatted calf is duly slaughtered. The fact that this is as much to do with F’s personality as to anything else, bears little weight on the argument. But his is just my supposition. Johnny and A know that F is gay and that I am the new boyfriend. It makes things easier.
B, his sister, is lovely. She is a large lady. She teaches disabled or disadvantaged children. The first time I was taken to her house, F showed me the living room. It was immaculate. He said that her flat was always perfectly clean and tidy. Ten minutes later, B gave me a tour. She jabbers at me as if I can understand every word she says. She jabbers away at anyone who will stay still, long enough to listen. We went into the lounge. She apologised for how she hadn’t been able to clean it and so how it was a mess!
She did a rice salad for us to take to Umbria. To have eaten it all would have taken an army of people or the two of us about 2 weeks. F complains about her and her incessant talking but he’s not unlike her in many ways. She has suffered from depression and the drugs that she has been taking over the years contribute to her size. She is lovely to me. I think she knows but, in any case, when we were talking, on the beach, Sunday afternoon, and F translated for her that he had told me that, even if he’s away and if the weather is good, I should come down anyway. Straight away she said I should come to her place ‘to be fed’!
She knows everyone on the beach. She probably knows everyone in the whole town(s). She lives just down the road from the House. He complains about her but I think he really has a soft spot for her. She is the ‘older’ sister and probably looked after the twins. She has a niece, named after F but the female version. His niece is about 18 and is going to or about to go to some sort of medical school. She is very sweet and beautiful. She sits with us on the beach. When I asked F about this he said that he was her favourite uncle and that doesn’t surprise me. He is always buying her presents and stuff and, from what he says, always has done. She speaks some English but is a bit shy – but, again, quite lovely with me.
B is married to Fa. He is the exception. Although quite nice and he does seem friendly, for some reason that escapes me, I can’t ‘connect’ with him (if you see what I mean – I mean to say, I can’t properly communicate with any of them but he seems, somehow, more distant). However, the Sunday before last we did have a bit of a chat over Sunday lunch. It was a difficult and awkward chat but at least we both tried. F doesn’t really like him very much, I think.
I’ve also met the aunt and uncle who live near to the House. Not to speak to really, just as we passed by and I was sitting in the car. We did go to their daughter’s place last Sunday (again, very close to the House). We didn’t stay long but later, when we were on the beach, she texted to say that she ‘like[d] your new boy’. Obviously, I asked if she knew and, yes, she did!
Many people said that I had ‘changed’ after I met F. Some implying it was for the better and others for the worse. And, yes, I’m sure I’ve changed. Some people recognised that I was happier, for certain. I wonder if they see that in F too? Certainly, in spite of the communication barrier, they seem to have taken me in and I’m ‘part of it’ as far as that can go – unless they always do that, of course, with any of F’s friends.
Still they are all nice and very friendly and I like them and, I think, they like me. I hope so and I hope they see that F is happy with me, which I think they do. We shall see. We go back again this weekend (another long weekend) and then again in a couple of weeks, F will fly from Spain to Parma on Friday night and the intention is that I go down that night too – if the weather is reasonable.