Contentment in Maria
John Laneri
At the time, I was frustrated – frustrated because Maria and I had traveled to Italy to visit her family in Parma during the month of August, the hottest time of the year.

Looking back, I remember the lack of air conditioning as being a problem that was almost as distracting as her parents weathered apartment – a tiny place that seemed as old as time.

Oh... and I need to mention the heat and the mosquitoes. Both made for long, miserable nights. One minute I could barely breathe due to stifling temperatures. But, whenever I opened a window to let in fresh air, thousands of hungry mosquitoes came swarming inside.

Perhaps, I was too weak willed to accept any discomfort.

I remember saying to Maria, “Let's move to a hotel – someplace more comfortable.”

She fanned at a mosquito then said, “My mother will be upset if we mention a hotel. You know how sensitive she is.”

“But, we only have a small fan for cooling. It barely moves the air.”

“She's planning a special meal tonight to celebrate the Feast of Saint Lawrence, the Patron Saint of Cooks. I absolutely do not want to disappoint her.”

“Saint Lawrence... My God, your mother is cooking for a dead Saint!”

Maria looked my way. “For your information, she's preparing a risotto that's finished off with mushrooms and a local parmigiano reggiano. I think you'll enjoy it.”

“Okay, you have my attention. I like risotto, so maybe, I can live with the heat and mosquitoes for few more days.”

“I knew you could. For her secondo, she plans to serve your favorite, a Veal Milanese. It's her way of saying she loves you too.”

I smiled and said, “I'm beginning to think she knows how to mellow my heart.”

“She's good at that. I am too, so after we eat, let's sneak away and stroll to the piazza, una passagiata as we say, and relish the evening breeze while we sample a nice spumoni.”

“That sounds good too. Do you have any other suggestions?”

She touched my arm. “We have the apartment for the rest of the afternoon.”

“How do you know?”

She looked into my eyes than edged beside me saying, “My mother told me to lock the door for privacy before she went to the market. She wants you to be happy. I want you to be happy too.”

And that's how it went, I forgot the weathered apartment, the stifling heat, and even the pesky mosquitoes and found contentment in Maria.

First published: August 2016
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