Mattress shopping with the Italian parents

By Dosi Cotroneo

Once again I find myself grappling with life’s most profound questions. I try to be a good mother, really I try. I try to be a good wife, really I try. I try to be a responsible pet owner, really I try. I try to be a good daughter to my 80-something year-old Italian immigrant parents who don’t drive and don’t speak English. I try to be a good citizen. I try to not break the law, particularly where my 80-something year-old Italian immigrant parents who don’t drive and don’t speak English, are concerned. I try to maintain my composure, my sense of humour, and my strong moral code while mattress shopping with my 80-something year-old Italian immigrant parents who don’t drive and don’t speak English. With all of my heart, I try to explain the difference to them about the varying degrees of soft versus firm, memory foam versus spring coils, and of course, Euro-top versus pillow top.

It’s been close to 30 years since Mom and Pop splurged on a new mattress, and according to them, their present mattress still looks “brand new”. The only problem is they wake up every morning feeling as though their back is broken, their ribs have been cracked, and their neck is immobilized. Papa insisted I explain all of this vital information to the patient mattress sales man who asked if they were in the market for a “soft” or “firm” mattress.

After a half hour or so of arguing with Mom and Pop about the importance of lying down to try out the firmness of the mattresses in the showroom, they finally agreed to at least, take a seat, albeit hesitatingly. Ma could not fathom lying down in a public place, while pop on the other hand, was snoring sitting up. More lengthy explanations followed by more arguing, followed by more shoulder shrugging. Finally, the moment of truth - my parents narrowed down their selection to two mattresses, which is really quite interesting since there were only two mattresses in the showroom that fell within their strict price range.

Pop was set on not spending a penny over $900.00, which proved challenging since the mattress they selected cost $899.99. Here is where a long tutorial on how to convince the kind salesman to waive the taxes for two weak Italian senior citizens began. I tried to explain to pop that regardless of his offers of homemade wine, sausages and a dozen canoli, would not be enough for our kind salesman to put his job in jeopardy. This is where a story about a similar incident that took place in Sicily, 1959 began to unfold. Pop insisted that I translate every single detail so with flushed cheeks and a dry mouth I recounted the fate of the Sicilian mattress salesman who refused to waive the taxes for one insistent customer, who had even offered him the hand of his eldest daughter in marriage. The salesman refused. He was found in the warehouse three days later squished between two extra-firm mattresses. Now looking pale and peaked, our kind salesman excused himself for a medical emergency. Out of nowhere my father’s aptitude for English appeared and he asked the salesman if he accepted cheques.

Today, I am enjoying an afternoon at home mulling over life’s most profound questions. For example, how is it possible that by maxing out my credit card I was spared a second visit to the mattress store to make the purchase? As I sip herbal tea and ponder life’s mysteries, eldest sister just rang to ask me for the make and model of the mattress, and I’m certain I could hear mom and pop arguing in the background. In case I forgot to mention it, Mom and Pop, who don’t speak English and don’t drive, also do not believe in credit cards.