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The last time I was flying back here this past September, I had a middle seat in the middle aisle of four seats of a three-aisle plane. I had a woman with an arm sling on my right who was almost absolutely silent the entire flight – which is absolutely fine with me, and at first the other two seats were empty and I was planning how I was going to curl up in my two-seat-wide bed for the remainder of this overnight flight when a mom and daughter came up the aisle on the left. I smiled as they sat down and settled in and realized the girl was speaking English and the mom, next to me, a mix of English and Italian.

I already had my book out. I don’t mind talking to people I sit next to on the plane but I don’t know about anyone else but I have no idea how to stop talking to them after it starts without feeling incredibly rude. Is this just me?

There have been a few exceptions to this scenario where I’ve actually gotten along with someone really well and just felt that I was traveling with them instead of next to them, but again, few and far between. Most of the time, I’ll say hi if they do, chat if they start asking questions, but I really don’t normally want to talk for six straight hours to someone I had no choice but to meet and sit bumping elbows over tiny cubes of food.

The mom’s screen wasn’t working on the headrest in front of her, though, and I could tell she was attempting to bring me into the conversation because mine was off too, and she was using more English when she talked about it. Here’s the part many people don’t think about. I now had to make a decision. What language do I use?

I responded to her in English because we were still technically in Boston and so I felt free enough to use it one last time before heading back into Italian when I generally use Italian when I’m outside of my house now. Once she knew I was actually going “home” and not leaving “home.” She immediately switched to fast-paced Italian. As I was hanging on to freely speaking English, she was launching into her trip home to Abruzzo and it was obvious she felt relieved to let her language out without thinking.

It was when she started asking me about how I made it to move to Italy when I felt I had finally made a bridge in the cultures. She had asked if my husband’s family was still around Florence, and I replied of course, that his mother and father are in the town down the road. But in my effort of explaining, I forgot a word I used wasn’t Italian but Florentine – and she called me out on it immediately and laughed at my Florentine “dialect.”

I used the word “Babbo” for father – which is only used in Tuscany – though it seems Babbo Natale is used for Santa Claus everywhere. Is Santa Tuscan? Regardless, I was happy to have my Italian placed in a region – it makes me feel that I belong much more. Now I just have to figure out this Christmas connection.

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