One of the nicest Italian rituals I continue to observe is the “Sunday visit.” The idea of the Sunday visit is centered on spending time with your family and friends, maybe consuming an espresso or aperitif, and celebrating a leisurely day without work or obligations. I was exposed to the Sunday visit early on at my grandparent’s home, where we lived with my parents until I was five years old, and was amazed at the stream of folks entering our finished basement just to say “hello.”
My grandmother’s brothers or family friends were frequent guests and I’d get a kick out of sitting at the plastic covered table with the weathered men (the women were at home making lunch, usually capretto, pasta ,coniglio, etc. which didn’t strike me as odd as a little boy). The conversation was, of course, in Italian and the men didn’t think anything of a 5 year old, American born, boy speaking perfect Calabrian dialect. As a pretentious kid, I’d ask all sorts of questions and was only asked to get up from the table if there was an adult waiting for a seat (thinking back the men were more than courteous). When I was asked to get up I’d walk over to the couch located at the back of room and from that vantage point I’d marvel at the smoke filled room with simultaneous conversations going on all at once; the environment was carnival like yet elegant with well dressed folks drinking exotic liquors and sipping dark coffee from small cups. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I realized that the Sunday visits were, in a sense, social experiments were I learned the art of conversation, family hierarchy, the value of money and the importance of loyalty.
I’m uncertain if our son Tommaso will experience the same existential, Sunday morning, moments his father experienced in the early 1980’s, but I hope, at the least, he realizes that remaining close and loyal to one’s family can bring about tremendous fulfillment and satisfaction (that is to say, it can make life truly beautiful).