Truth be told, I am not honest with my Italian immigrant parents

By Dosi Cotroneo

Looking back on my Italian upbringing, I can smile and reflect on many large family dinners, celebrations, and scoldings. That’s right – scoldings. It never ceases to amaze me how the fear-factor never leaves the child of Italian immigrants. It’s as though time seems to stand still for our parents and the power they have over us. Regardless of our age, how many children we have, where we are in our careers, my siblings and I still cringe at the very thought of getting an earful from mom or dad. I still freeze with fear at the very thought of one of my mother’s icy glares the sisters and I refer to as “the evil eye.” I think I was on the receiving end of so many “evil eyes” during the mini-skirt and spandex phase of the 1980’s that it’s a wonder my mother has any movement left in her pupils.

At the ripe old age of 46, I still can’t tell my parents what I really paid for my Italian leather stilettos because I fear it would cause not only a guilt-ridden lecture about the hardships of life in the home country, being born and raised during the Great Depression and the Second World War, the challenges of immigrating, and how easily I toss aside their sacrifices by frittering away yet another paycheque on more shoes, more purses, and more things I really don’t need but must have, and it is for this very reason that I have had to fabricate ridiculous pre-war prices on nust about everything I purchase.

With Christmas fast-approaching, I can’t help but think about the importance of honesty and the example I am setting for my children. Are they withholding truths from me about the cost of their latest purchase? Do they own three cats that I don’t know about? Have they forged my signature on any banking documents just to purchase an expensive piece of jewelry?

This bout of introspection is really making me wonder what kind of a mother and daughter I really am. I find myself trapped in a cycle of lies. Why if I’m not withholding the truth about the price of my latest purchase from my mother, I’m withholding the truth about the price of my latest purchase from my sensible, practical, level-headed, 20 year-old daughter, and don’t even get me started on the husband. “Who left a red velvet chair in the backseat of the car?” asked the husband. “It was a birthday gift from my friend Maria in Toronto,” replied the wife. “Have I ever met this Maria and wasn’t your birthday back in September?” asks the husband, downing yet another tranquilizer. “Mother you’re going to end up being an impoverished bag lady, living in a back alley wearing an ill-fitting vintage Chanel suit and pushing around a shopping cart full of cats with some tins of cat food if you don’t smarten up with your spending habits!” scolds the daughter.

At times, I feel as though I am trapped in the dual-roles of daughter to my scolding Italian parents and daughter to my scolding Italian daughter! All of this stress is causing me to delve into yet another shopping bender, hence I must head out to the nearest shoe store. Do these people have no idea of what I must endure on a daily basis?

I try to be a good mother. God knows I try. I try to be a good daughter. God knows I try. I try to be a good wife. God knows I try. It is for these very reasons that I have committed myself to not telling a single lie for the next 30 days. If husband asks me if the Visa statement arrived in the mail, I will reply, “yes dear.” If daughter asks me if I filled up the car when the gas prices dropped three cents a litre, I will reply, “yes dear.” If mother asks me if I am available to help her bake bread this Saturday, I will not come up with lame excuses such as, “a bout of diarreah”, “a forehead-shattering migraine”, or a “an itchy, red mysterious rash,” I will simply reply, “yes dear.”

There, I feel better already. And at the end of these long, drawn-out 30 days of selfless service and complete and utter honesty, I will reward myself with a blissful day of shopping for impractical, hideously expensive, ridiculously high-heeled Italian leather shoes, and just tell the family that I will be away for the day on some kind of spiritual retreat. I suppose there is some truth to that.