My main aims during last Christmas holidays were to spend time with my parents, to have a good rest and to read, read as much as possible, both the books I had brought with me from England and more stuff I’d dug out from my parents’ library. I longed to live again my adolescent habit to alternate reading, snoozing and taking notes of my thoughts in an idyllic out-of-the-world holiday atmosphere of total break. As an additional task I also aimed to do some sightseeing around Rome and visit museums and places only my husband is able to spot, considering his passion and expertise in ancient Roman history and other curiosities about the capital.
I was with my parents most of the time, spending time with them at home, cooking with my mum, chatting with my dad, going to the supermarket together and taking them to occasional hospital appointments. They are in their mid 80s now, tend to get tired easily and above all often forget things. This brings to funny happenings which may be irritating for some but not for me. For example, we had to arrange where and how to meet friends and relatives, what to cook, how to set out tables and seats, etc. I discussed everything with my mum and wrote it down in a tidy list. But from time to time she came back to me repeating the same questions: who is coming for Christmas day? What are we doing on New Year’s Eve? What are we cooking tomorrow? When are my nephews coming? I kept repeating what we had arranged patiently but sometimes couldn’t help feeling I was in the middle of a live comedy show, where I played the supporting role.
The slightly worrying pickle, though, is that they are convinced they can still do everything on their own. It’s good they have the energy to travel and they are independent, but sometimes I feel they dare too much and they think they can still cope with any problem, which frightens me a bit. It is understandable they don’t want to be a burden for me and my sister, nevertheless I can see they are inevitably weaker year after year.
I could spend time with my parents in law as well, who are about ten years younger than my parents and in good health. We also had a kind of family gathering where we met my cousins and their families. We had a big meal altogether with two types of lasagne my daughter prepared, a classical one with ragù and a vegetarian one with olives; then beef joint, roast potatoes, artichokes (my mum’s speciality) and a superb pudding: a new Swiss roll, a sponge roulade my daughter and I experimented, a real success, and the traditional Neapolitan Christmas treat called struffoli.
My autistic daughter Valentina wasn’t with us. She remained in England this time, in a respite care in Surrey. We went to see her and say good-bye before leaving together with the other children who were back home for the Christmas break. She was happy to see us and looked settled in her new home. We brought her some presents, new clothes, as she loves to get changed, and a puzzle we did together. It was strange to have Christmas time without her after thirteen years she has been with us, but it was a relief in a way. We knew she was happy where she was and we could see it was much better for her to be in one place where they know her needs instead of travelling till Italy in unfamiliar environments which would only unsettle and irritate her.
For Christmas I received gorgeous presents. My mother knitted me a beautiful lilac pullover, a real masterpiece and my parents gave me a powerful super blender as well, a robot by Vorwerk that mixes, blends and cooks with a fantastic recipe book specifically for it. From my sister I had a cushion cover and an Indian doll from her recent travel to India, then a jacket, a pair of black leather gloves from my parents in law, a one-of-a-kind felt brooch from a friend and books from my children. My daughter gave me Inside Out DVD as she remembered how much I enjoyed the film last summer. To treat myself I bought books, especially poetry books, and a few clothes,... this is the charm of being in Italy.