In a little while I’ll be leaving to attend the local Italian-American Heritage Festival. For most Italians, it is a festival not to be missed. My mother loved going to the festival. For her, it was an opportunity to meet up with a group of friends who would reminisce about the past. While others were chowing down on pasta, meatballs, sauce, and other Italian dishes, the friends that my mother would meet up with rarely consumed such festival cuisine. Why would they when some of the best Italian food ever tasted came directly from their kitchens.
Since I was privy to some of the best Italian food ever consumed by human beings, and since there is little else to do at the festival, I didn’t attend often. I only attended when my mother couldn’t find anyone else to take her there.
Today, as I was thinking about attending the festival for the first time in what must be over 10 years, of course my thoughts turned to my mother. I can see her face as her eyes would light up when she suddenly spotted someone in the crowd that she knew. I can hear her telling me how “I” should know who they are, but in reality if I knew them I didn’t remember. I remember her friends telling me, “I remember you when you were ‘this big'” and I’d smile just a second before the Italian (and hands) started to fly. Today, I wondered if my mother thought of her own mother at the Italian-American Heritage Festival as she socialized with so many people.
I wonder, is it the connection to the not so distant past the draws so many people to the festival? For Italians, it certainly can’t be the food!