Here in Italy in the middle of the night when I hear strange noises coming from the garden my first thoughts are not danger or fear, but rather ahhh there’s my neighbor at it again. I barely react anymore as I know that, more often than not, those strange clanging or scuffling sounds are just my middle aged neighbor climbing over my fence in order to compost my rose bushes, sort my recycling or spray my yard with insecticide.
Although they speak no English and my Italian can best be described as broken the benevolent duo next door have become surrogate parents of sorts. They take my trash out when I travel, set up large tents for our parties, and perform a whole host of other kind deeds without ever bringing attention to them.
In return, my roommates and I provide them with constant entertainment. In a futile effort to ward off the weight gain associated with our constant schedule of eating, my roommates and I developed an ambitious plan of doing work out dvd’s in our living room. The very first afternoon our neighbor exclaimed delightedly that she could hear us “playing gym” through the walls and would be sure to send her father over next time to join us. Every movement we make is overheard, every guest is scrutinized, and I suppose we must pass muster.
I recently returned from a month in the states and found myself locked out of the house for four hours with 3 huge suitcases. Sure, I remembered to pack my soynut butter but somehow house keys slipped my mind. Priorities I guess. Exhausted after so much travel and so little sleep, I curled up in my driveway and fell asleep on the pavement in the sun.
"If you were in the U.S." my sister told me "your stuff would have been stolen and you probably would have been molested." In Italy however, a man in the apartment building across the street who I had never seen before shouted down off his balcony for me to come in and relax. The congenial shouting caught the attention of my surrogate Italian parents who quickly scolded me and shooed me into their home where I was plied with fresh melon and glasses of pineapple juice. They plopped me down in front of their t.v. and played Night at the Museum 2 in English for me until my roommate arrived to save the day.
It’s nice to know that even with my mother an ocean away, I still have a middle aged woman who is creepily obsessed with my safety and watches my every move. You can sleep soundly at night momma knowing that my Italian neighbor is passing along important life lessons such as the fact that I should be sure to shut my windows before I leave for vacation because it might rain and the house would get wet. I’m not sure I would survive without the two of you.