This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.
Yes, breakfast was included in this wonderful sleep-over that Gabriele had arranged for us. It was set up in the dining room downstairs. We must have overslept because as we made our way up the hallway to the stairs, we saw that all the other guest rooms were emptied. The doors were open and Max’s hardworking mother was laboring away. Stripping the beds, opening windows, vacuuming, all in her measured, my-arthritis-is-acting-up sort of way. It slowed her down, but it didn’t stop her.
Max waited for us at the dining room table, complete with our place settings, a pot of espresso and a large plate with mounds of biscotti and fresh pastries. It seems Max’s Mom made these this morning, before she started cleaning the guest rooms. We had a few hours to kill before we were to meet Gabriele, so we settled in for a leisurely breakfast with Max.
Max seemed to be in his 30’s, attractive, lithe, with dark hair and those deep Italian eyes. The three of us talked about a wide range of subjects: Italy, America, working parents, children, cooking, Siena, girlfriends (he didn’t have one) and on and on. After about an hour, Max’s Mom emerged from the kitchen with a big smile and another plate of just baked pastries (we had pretty much decimated the first plate). That’s when we realized she had made these fluffy goodies and hadn’t just picked them up at the bakery. We feigned protest, but probably weren’t too convincing. After all, she’d already made them. We couldn’t let them go to waste. She walked slowly back to her chores upstairs and we continued to eat and pass the time with Max. We couldn’t help noticing that young, healthy Max was doing nothing while his mother did everything.
At one point, I went upstairs to use the bathroom. I was too paranoid to lock the door, so I just closed it and hoped for the best. As I was making my way downstairs again, Max’s Mom was walking a few steps ahead of me. Remember the slow, painful movements of this woman? There she was, singing a little tune and bounding (yes, bounding) down the stairs like she was 20. I was happy she was happy but still, what was going on?
I rejoined Lana and Max at the table where we hung out until we had to leave. There was quite a scene saying goodbye. Not so much Max, but his Mom didn’t want to see us go. She hugged us both so tightly we were getting confused. It wasn’t until we were walking over to the café to meet Gabriele that we put the morning’s events together. It seemed to us that Max’s Mom was probably like every other Italian mother we’d ever known or heard about: she wanted a wife for her son. She had morphed from cripple to singing athlete once she decided that at least one of us must have been interested in her handsome, available Max. Why else would we have spent so much time with him at breakfast? To Max’s Mom, he was the catch of a lifetime! What young woman wouldn’t want to hook up with Max and cook all his meals, do his laundry, clean up after him and then give Mom a hand cleaning the guest bedrooms, the bathroom, dusting, vacuuming, straightening? Ah, to two single American women it all seemed like such a mad whirl of delights! Really, we couldn’t walk to the café fast enough.