From The Sky - Part II

The first time they missed a Sunday dinner at my place was after the twins were born. They brought me dinner at the hospital, light northern dishes made with pasta and risotto. I can still recall the aroma of the food…the light tickle of lemon, bold pine-scented wisps of rosemary, the minty sweetness of basil…isn't that odd after all these years? They brought piles of food and put them on my table, my window ledge, the nightstand…anything with a flat surface had a tray or dish sitting on it. I remember a nurse came into the room to scold my aunts, and Aunt Rae stuck a plate of food in her hand and pushed her back out the door. Soon there was a steady stream of hospital staff in and out of my room the rest of the evening. We fed everyone who came through the door, and there was still food left over. I've never seen my aunts run out of food. It's almost a Christ-and-the-fishes type of thing. If they walk through the door with a tray of lasagna, it always seems like there are two trays left over after everyone leaves.

The week after the twins were born, my aunts arrived at my house with a full dinner (they gave me the week off again). They walked in just as my girlfriend Tessa was cooing over the boys (…oh, they're so handsome! What gorgeous boys! Such beautiful, beautiful babies! Oh, Renata, they're perfect!)

My aunts stood there with looks of utter horror on their face. They had been so careful not to do anything to bring bad luck into the house. At the hospital after the twins were born, they'd checked again and again for any sign the Evil Eye had fallen upon them. Red ribbons were pinned to the diapers for protection. Aunt Sal brought a vial of olive oil and a small dish, and she put some water from the hospital sink into the dish, placed it on my bed stand, and poured a large drop of the olive oil into the water. All three aunts studied the oil carefully, looking for any sign that evil forces lay in wait nearby for my boys. Now, after all they'd done, here was my friend Tessa practically inviting evil to dinner.

My aunts went to work the second Tessa left. Prayers. Holy Water. Salt in the corners of every room. Another round of olive oil prognostication. Relieved sighs at the end of it all an hour later. My boys were safe.

"Keep Tessa away from your children," Aunt Rae warned, "She's nice enough and she means no harm, but she's as dense as a bucket of lead. She'll bring you bad luck. You can't fawn over babies like that."

"Make sure you cover their stroller if you take them out for a walk," said Aunt Sal. "Don't show them off. Keep them out of sight. Envy brings evil, Renata, remember that!"

"And the diapers," Aunt Rae added, "Make sure their diapers are on backwards. I've heard that works."

I rolled my eyes and looked over at Aunt Zia. She was standing in the kitchen doorway, hands on hips, frowning sourly.

"Well?" I asked. "Go ahead and toss in your two cents!"

"Please. I just need a scotch," said Zia. "Does Joe have any decent scotch? All this exorcising made me thirsty." I poured her a double and then we all set to work on the dinner.

An Italian Feast...

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