Two men cousins, with whom dad had grown up in Abruzzo, and their wives, along with a few of their combined 30 and 40-something adult children, plus their assorted grandchildren, had also arranged to be there for this momentous reunion.
Let me set the stage. Mom had already been constipated for several days before she and Dad arrived at the farm. So the story, which I always visualize as a play, starts on the first afternoon of their visit.
MOM: Peter, ask your aunt if there's a pharmacy in the village center. I'm going to have to do something about my situation before I burst.
DAD: (asking in Italian) Aunt Consolata, would you give me the directions to your nearest pharmacy.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Why? Whatsa wrong?
DAD: Oh, nothing serious. Mary is just a bit constipated. Has been for a few days now.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Ah! Stitichezza! Very bad.
Having overheard his wife's loud exclamation from the next room, in walks Uncle Agapeto, pointing and gesticulating as he gives directions, all in broken English.
Exit Dad and Mom in their rental car.
The following morning, just after breakfast, while everyone is still gathered together. a neighbor from two farms down the narrow dirt road knocks on the kitchen door and Aunt Consolata invites her in.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Ciao, Lucia. What you bring?
After the two women chat for a couple of minutes, now totally in Italian, Dad translates for Mom as the rest of the family listen in dead silence.
DAD: It seems my aunt's neighbor has brought a huge pot of minestrone soup for you. She prepared it last night, as soon as she heard about your distressing condition. She says to tell you that her soup always works and that they all hope you are feeling better soon.
MOM: (in a high-pitched voice) They? Who are They? And how did she even find out about my personal condition?
DAD: Could have been someone working at the pharmacy or maybe a customer who overheard us speaking with the pharmacist. This is a small farming village; word spreads and it spreads fast.
Later, at lunch time, which, in Italy, is really more like dinner, Mom starts eating a second serving of minestrone ladled into her bowl by Aunt Consolata.
All eyes around the super-long dining room table watch expectantly.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Mangiare, mangiare.
MOM: I am eating. I only put my spoon down for a few seconds to catch my breath.
AUNT CONSOLATA: You get stordito if too long stitico.
DAD: She says you will get lethargic if you are constipated for too long.
MOM: Everyone's waiting to see if I suddenly bolt from this table. I have never in my entire life been so embarrassed and humiliated.
DAD: No, no, they're just concerned.
That evening, all the relatives are gathered in the living room, chatting and laughing. The decibel level is high. Mom gets up from the sofa, during a moment when no one is paying the least attention to her, and tiptoes down the hallway toward the bathroom. Alas, at the sound of loud flushing emanating from the pull-string toilet, all conversation ceases and everyone looks straight at Mom as she reenters the living room.
UNCLE AGAPETO: Che cosa?
As Mom signals thumbs down, condolences fly around the room.
"Oh, too bad."
"So sorry, Mary."
Others shake their heads.
ANNA: (the wife of one of Dad's cousins) The owner of that cute little fabric shop, you know, the one near the pharmacy? Well, she told me when I was in there today that the best thing to be done is lots of walking and plenty of liquids.
The following night. The entire family is gathered for the last time in the living room since Mom and Dad will be leaving the next morning. Dad and his cousins are reveling in childhood memories.
Suddenly, Mom gets up to use the bathroom. All eyes follow her.
A few minutes pass. The toilet flushes. Head held high, Mom struts into the living room.
DAD: Well? Any good news?
MOM: (triumphantly) Yes! Si! Finalmente!
All Dad's relatives burst out in joyful laughter.
A few start singing.
A couple pat her on the back.
Uncle Agapeto pours the wine.
AUNT CONSOLATA: Congratulazione!