Maria had a large woven woolen bag that had Guatemala embroidered on it. I asked her if she was Guatemalan and she said, “I’m half Guatemalan and half Mexican.”
Remembering my own childhood being half Irish and half Italian and the crazy family arguments that condition seemed to generate I had to ask, “Does that ever cause any family arguments like, ‘The Mexican way is better,’ ‘No, the Guatemalan way is better,’ and things like that?”
Maria rolled her eyes, laughed and said, “All the time!”
I told her, “Yeah in my family too! All my dad’s Italian sisters married Irishmen (except for Aunt Teresa who married my Polish uncle Bob because he was such a sweetie) and it seemed like at every family gathering there was at least some debate about the merits of each family ethnicity.” I learned early on that these debates could get quite heated (loud) and acrimonious but I had no idea how far reaching this divide could be until my dad threw it on the police!
Christmas at Nana’s
Lake Shore Drive (aka the Outer Drive) is a beautiful highway that runs along the east side of Chicago right next to Lake Michigan. Every Christmas Eve we used to take the Outer Drive to visit Nana, my Italian grandmother, who lived in ‘Little Italy’ on Chicago’s near south-side, for our annual family Christmas feast (“Don’t put your coats on the bed! Nana made raviolis!”). We young boys, little monsters that we were, unconscious of death or dismemberment, always exhorted my dad to drive faster and faster! My mom, who possessed the ‘worry gene’ in abundance always demanded that my dad drive slower.
My dad was not always patient with four crazy people telling him how to drive. If he was in a good mood he’d say, “Why don’t you folks just play dead and let me drive this hearse?” Which of course did not put my mother at ease. If dad got mad – look out! He’d shout, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the saints Kathleen. Just let me drive! You’ve got me so mad I could spit nails.” And it was on just such an occasion, one Christmas Eve on the Outer Drive, that the police pulled my dad over for speeding.
The cop came up to the window, asked for my dad’s license and then said the standard, “Mr. DeVuono you were speeding. Do you know how fast you were going?”
My father, always an honest man, said, “No I don’t know how fast I was going. I was fighting with my wife. She’s Irish, AND YOU KNOW HOW THEY ARE!”
And the cop let him go!