Okay, the world didn't end recently as predicted--but some of us aren't off the hook yet. Personally speaking, the end-times are breathing down my neck like an Italian mother-in-law after the birth of her first grandchild, because very soon my two chimp-limbed urchins shall be catapulted from the industrious froth of scholarly life into the placid, lotus pond torpor of le vacanze estive.
Picture, if you will:
The setting: a wide, dusty, unpaved street--the main thoroughfare in a former Wild West boom town, now all but abandoned by decent, god-fearing folk. Tumbleweeds drift aimlessly, the sun a hard-boiled egg yolk consuming the sky, heat shimmers thickly on the far horizon, and there's not a soul abroad in this hell's high noon.
(Foreground) A woman--quite pretty, actually--with a determined set to her jaw and a missionary's gleam in her eye, comes into view. She stands in the middle of the street, wide-legged, hands on hips, sweat glistening on her brow--ignoring the sun's glare and fixing her gaze on two figures who suddenly appear menacingly in the near distance. She's wearing a badge that reads "World's #1 Mom" and has dropped two colorful backpacks at her feet, each chock-full of books and educational activities. She takes a hearty swig of pinot grigio from her hip flask, wipes her brow with the back of her hand, pushes her specs back up onto the bridge of her nose, and steps forward as if to meet her Maker.
(Cut to background) Two reedy rapscallions--a sawed-off six year-old girl with an imp's mug, and a shaggy-maned nine year-old boy with grubby fingernails--stand easy and bold-faced at the far end of the yawning, deserted street (the townspeople--smelling imminent bloodshed--having shuttered themselves away), and lock their cold, calculating eyes with the woman, never flinching. They're cocky. Cool as cucumbers. Looking for a fight. Their stance is equally splay-legged and defiant, and they're brandishing video-game remotes with the confident dexterity of born gunslingers. When they see the fool woman advance up the mean street, they gamely amble forward with the cagey, shuffling gait of rogues who know how to fight dirty.
It's a showdown. Lives and honor are at stake. Or, at least, summer is.
Of course, the end of life as this mommy knows it won't come until after Armageddon--in the form of a brutal onslaught of year-end marathon-length recitals and parties--the worst torture being the pot-luck buffet dinner at the children's school (if you've never witnessed Italians laying waste to a buffet, consider yourselves lucky--they're like obstreperous jackals). The natives of this sunny peninsula, as we know by now, like to exit stage left with a grand flourish, go out with a bellissimo bang, ceremonialize the trivial, elevate the inconsequential into the monumental--and transubstantiate the inanimate into the celestial. Which means, of course, that instead of just letting us all melt away into 95-degree oblivion for three months, Italian logic dictates that in order to commemorate the mere end of another term we must party like it's 1999.
And then, Judgement Day--ah, yes--when all the good Italian mommies who scour their homes in perpetuity, who iron their kids' underwear, who find time to have their sundry limbs waxed, and who squeeze into skinny jeans and totter about on stiletto heels, will go to Heaven (i.e. the beach for the duration), and all the bad foreign mommies who selfishly enjoy time to themselves so they can read and pursue hobbies--the ones who don't always serve three courses at mealtimes, the ones courting death by wandering the house barefoot, the ones who stockpile Hidden Valley Ranch packets, the ones in wrinkled garments who knock back a cocktail now and again--will be drop-kicked straight into Hell and the door slammed after them. Hell being--in this case--summer in Florence with two kids to keep occupied.
(Dear Readers, that's the sound of me girding my loins).
Yours as always,