Friday, December 21, 2012
Lo and behold! A Christmas Metaphor
After some 12 years of Italian living, I've learned not to expect much from the Italian postal service (I want to add a snarky "bwahahahaha!" but shall refrain). So you can imagine my surprise when we received a mysterious envelope, addressed to my daughter, from the Poste Italiane in the mail yesterday.
I can only surmise that the postal service lifted her name and address off the letterina to Babbo Natale--wherein she detailed her preferences (anything having to do with dogs) and demands (along the lines of "I know darn well I've been good so bring me all this stuff no later than 6:00 am Dec. 25 or you'll be sorry, kiss kiss ciao ciao heart heart Gemma")--that she shoved into the little red mailbox down the street about a week ago. In this large blue envelope was a letter from Santa in which he tells how he lost his warm berretto and the elves, out of deep affection for their boss, bought him a straw hat with which to replace it, and that even though it wasn't really appropriate (given the temperatures at the North Pole during winter of course), he loved it because it was a gift from the heart. He admonishes, "You know, my dear children, that which makes us truly happy is not what we want, but rather that which we receive from the people who love us." (Nothing like a preemptive strike in case the little tykes don't get what's on their list). Then the letter says that Reindeer Matilda will help him find his old hat (because he still would really rather have that one, see, thus rendering moot his earlier magnanimity) with her glowing purple nose--you just have to build her, discover the internet address, and then go look up the webpage where you can experience all manner of fun hunting for Santa's hat on the internets.
Huh. Those knaves! Who do they take me for? Like I don't know that this isn't merely a diverting Christmas activity for a child. It's a metaphor, a metaphor for life in Italy. Naturally.
Italians love children, they really really do. To the extent that even the inept, malingering Poste Italiane will incur considerable expense at sending these little packets around. Of course, this also means they're apparently too busy to deliver the package I've been waiting three weeks for.
Italians are impossibly long-winded in print. Gemma took one look at the long-ass letter from Santa and tossed it aside, couldn't be bothered. I myself react similarly to the emails I get from the PTA--by comparison they make most Wikipedia entries look like something you'd find in a fortune cookie.
Italians need their parents for everything. The complexity of Matilda the Purple-Nosed Reindeer's construction is mind-boggling. Not only do you need a parent to build it for you, you need a parent with an engineering degree and a good dose of Mother Teresa's DNA.
Italians take a simple idea or solution and make it impossibly convoluted and unnecessarily complex. Matilda the Purple-Nosed Reindeer has some 20 small parts made of flimsy paper, requires legs and neck to be folded accordion-style with obsessive-compulsive precision, and needs all the minute intractable flaps to be glued together (and apparently handled with tiny surgical instruments)--at 9:30 pm on a school night with your daughter insisting adamantly that she won't go to bed until it's finished and you regretting that third glass of wine that shot your fine motor skills to hell. Then you're supposed to hop online, pray your crappy DSL connection holds out, and surf your way to holiday fun-time while Matilda's scrofulous, rickety legs start falling apart and her antlers go awry. Frack you, fracking Matilda the Purple-Nosed Reindeer!
Do not question life on this immutable peninsula, just accept things as they are. Why does Matilda have a purple nose? Why is she called Matilda? (Was Matilda the name of some tricked-out, nun-garbed floozy at one of Berlusca's bunga bunga parties, and is thus a kind of twisted yuletide homage to a pancake-faced man who sleeps in pickling liquid?) What diabolical nincompoop designed Matilda? And why does the postal service have all kinds of time on their hands? These and all such equally rational inquiries fall on the stone-deaf ears of the cold, indifferent Italian universe.
I cannot help but think, dear Readers, that it probably would have been better if Matilda the Purple-Nosed Reindeer had never entered my life, never clomped into my living room on her insouciant brown paper hoofs, as it were. But she did, and I--as usual--have to try and glue all the little pieces together and make some merry sense of it all.
Ho Ho and all that,