Ruminations on a Tuesday: Talking with Your Hands

Posted on
Jan 31, 2012

A while ago, I wrote a blurb on a scrap sheet of paper. I finally added it to an old picture I had of my grandfather and my cousin.

Forgive me for such a hideous attempt at poetry (if, indeed, that’s what’s going on. It might just be a really awful LOLcat). This sophomoric attempt at prose is the result of the fact that lately, I’ve been feeling homesick for Italy.

Let’s ignore how stupidly privileged and spoiled such a statement sounds, and focus instead on its sheer stupidity: I am feeling homesick for a place in which I have never lived. Absurd, right? But my mother lived there. And my grandparents did. Surely that counts for something.

Because while Italy has never been my home, my home has been full of Italians. I suspect it’s that which I long for more than any particular city or town. I don’t necessarily need to see Rome, but I need to sit at a table full of people screaming and yelling (often in agreement) about nothing at all. I can skip Naples, but please, let someone pile too much pasta on my plate with a dismissive “Oh, you’ll finish it.”

And then let’s linger for three hours over a meal, while we shout and gesture and laugh and slam our hands down on the table.

That’s it, really. It’s not that I long to be home in Italy. It’s just that I long to be in an Italian home. The one from my childhood. The one that was full of people, many of whom are now gone. The one that no longer exists, no matter how hard I look for it. And Italy doesn’t really cure that. Not really.

But it sure as hell couldn’t hurt, right?

Leave a Comment

  • Even though I am Bulgarian this dinner description really speaks to me – it is not about Italy or a city as you say – it is about family, close friends, happy times.

    My philosophy is that if I can’t go back to my childhood home I try to go as close as possible – invite all your friends over, cook ridiculous amounts of food and linger at the table for 3 hours. If people aren’t comfortable with the shouting and the hand slamming make sure there is a lot of wine – that seems to help:) It’s not the same as being back home but it works well for me.

    And from my experience all people enjoy eating the Italian/Bulgarian way even if they don’t know it yet – after all, who would turn down pasta (and the wine!)??

    • Everywhereist

      I absolutely love that the Bulgarians lingered over dinner as much as the Italians do – it’s something I noticed in Sofia. 🙂

  • I was always homesick for Scotland, even before I’d ever been there. Once I did visit, however, it was like finding a puzzle piece I never knew was missing. And whenever I visit Seattle, it’s less than a week before I’m homesick for it again.

    I relate to the homesickness of people, too. To me, my sisters mean home. One holiday morning we were sitting at the table of our rented flat in Spain, sipping our café con leche and reading the paper and I realized that we were in a foreign country, and yet HOME all at the same time. One of my best moments, ever.

    • Everywhereist

      Gertie – it’s so true – having certain people around you will always make you feel like you are at home. Your trip to Spain sounds magical. 🙂

  • Janet T

    I grew up in a very quiet family, so imagine my surprise at my Italian mother-in-law (most of the family was very loud, especially when proving a point). My husband is still quite loud, albeit self conscious about it, and always talks with his hands.

    I miss our Thanksgiving dinners: 25 or more people, fully or partially of Italian heritage- when it would get very quiet after everyone had their food, then someone would jump up and say “Happy Thanksgiving” and the laughter and loudness would start again.
    If you need a quick fix, I suggest little Italy in San Francisco.

  • Jane Babich

    Oh how I miss Sunday dinners… when I read your entry today… I stopped and knew that I had to tell you how much I share your thoughts. My family spent hours at the table, laughing, talking, and discussing the problems of the world. Then when I meet my husband, his family did the same just a little louder. Then I had my first experience of an Italian Sunday dinner when my husband’s boss invited us; I was hooked.
    Such love, such fun, not to mention the incredible food. Thanks for bringing back a wonderful memory to one that now sits at home alone and eats Sunday dinner. Do not be sad… it is all about changes in our life! But enjoy it while you can!


    Shame I cannot video commenting… I would add a nice Italian accent to your post 🙂

  • I’m 45mins from Italy right now and it kills me that I won’t make it there this trip. Next trip, right?

    • Everywhereist

      Ouch – that HAS to hurt. But yes, you can go back. Italy will be waiting. 🙂

  • Frank


  • Capisco tutto. L’Italia mi manca anchio.

  • That might actually contain a grammar error. I’m a beginner at Italian. I just know I miss Italy a lot, without ever having lived there. *sigh* It’s just that kind of place.

    • Everywhereist

      My family always says grammar doesn’t matter when learning a second language – it only matters that you are understood. And you are. 🙂

      My Italy grammar is horrendous, but I think that it might be “Anche a mi manca l’Italia.” But I’m not entirely sure.

  • Oh, I understand. Unfortunately you are correct – you can never go back. But you can come close!

  • Xenia

    Actually, the correct versions would be:
    1. Anche a me manca l’Italia
    2. L’Italia manca anche a me.
    You could slang it into “anche a me mi manca”, and you’d make a grammar mistake that Italian kids make a lot (while you’d be correct in Spanish). Your teacher would then have a mild heart attack and tell you to choose between “a me manca” and “mi manca”.
    That said, a me mancano la burrata, gli spaghetti alle vongole e il panzerotto da Luini a Milano. Ah sì, anche il pesto alla genovese, quello fatto in casa, preferibilmente da un Genovese! 🙂

  • I love Italy and many things Italian!
    The ice-cream, the Espresso, the Tiramisu…

    But during my last two-week stay in Modena I found one thing that gave me some problems…

    Many cafés do not have a toilet!

  • Damn, I miss Italian Sunday dinners: fried artichokes, ravioli and rich, red sauce with meatballs, sausage and brazhole.

    Ugh. You don’t get food like that here in Central America.

    But you can get close with this guy’s recipe:

    It’s the most hilarious recipe: it’s like an Italian raving at you in the kitchen.

    And of course, his hands are waving like crazy 😉

  • The second I finished reading your ”poetic” piece on that picture I was transported to Italy when good fortune left me walking down a ridiculously crowded, cobblestone paved, fountain-lined street with my hubby. we glanced over at a beautiful Italian woman driving an itsy-bitsy car while doing the following in no particular order:
    1. Smoking a cigarette (obviously)
    2. Speaking VERY emphatically into her cellular phone
    2 1/2: Speaking emphatically = hand gestures. . . furious, frenzied hand gestures
    3: Driving – with a steering wheel, but somehow without hands

    Thanks for the memories 🙂

  • ding dong


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