Love and guilt are thick in the Scottoline/Serritella household, and Lisa and Francesca's mother-daughter-turned-best-friends bond will strike a familiar note to many. But now that Lisa is a suburban empty nester and Francesca is an independent twentysomething in the big city, they have to learn how to stay close while living apart. How does a mother's love translate across state lines and over any semblance of personal boundaries? You'll laugh out loud as they face off over the proper technique for packing dishes, the importance of bringing a coat in the summertime, and the dos and don'ts of dating at any age. Add feisty octogenarian Mother Mary to the mix, and you have a Molotov cocktail of estrogen, opinions, and fun.
These stories will make you laugh, cry, and call your mother, daughter, and all your girlfriends.
About the Author
LISA SCOTTOLINE is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Rosato&DiNunzio legal thrillers (beginning with Accused). Her standalone novels include Save Me, Don’t Go, and Dirty Blonde. Scottoline has won an Edgar Award and Cosmopolitan magazine’s “Fun Fearless Fiction” Award; multiple Earphones Awards for her nonfiction book recordings; and a “Paving the Way” Award from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served as the president of Mystery Writers of America and teaches a course on justice and fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. She lives in the Philadelphia area.
FRANCESCA SERRITELLA graduated cum laude from Harvard University, where she won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the Le Baron Russell Briggs Fiction Prize, and the Charles Edmund Horman Prize for her creative writing. She lives in New York with only one dog, so far.
Scottoline and Serritella write a weekly column, “Chick Wit”, for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The columns have been collected in Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog; My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space; and Best Friends, Occasional Enemies, among others.
Lisa Scottoline is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Look Again, Lady Killer, Think Twice, Save Me and Everywhere That Mary Went. She also writes a weekly column, “Chick Wit,” with her daughter Francesca Serritella, for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The columns have been collected in Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog and My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space. She has won an Edgar® Award and Cosmopolitan magazine’s “Fun Fearless Fiction” Award, and she is the president of Mystery Writers of America. She teaches a course on justice and fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. She lives in the Philadelphia area.
FRANCESCA SERRITELLA graduated cum laude from Harvard University, where she won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the Le Baron Russell Briggs Fiction Prize, and the Charles Edmund Horman Prize for her creative writing. She is working on a novel, and she lives in New York with only one dog, so far. Francesca is the coauthor of I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? and many others.
Date of Birth:July 1, 1955
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1981
Read an Excerpt
Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim
By Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Smart Blonde, LLC, and Francesca Scottoline Serritella
All rights reserved.
Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim
I was just talking with a friend of mine, who says she has to nag her kids every time they leave for a trip. She nags them to pack their bags, to get ready on time, and to not forget their sneakers. She feels bad for nagging them, and all of it takes me back to when Daughter Francesca was ten years old and we had one of the best fights of our life.
And yes, you can have a good fight with your daughter.
If you've read me before, you know that I think fighting is healthy and normal, and a good fight is when you learn something from your kid. Not when you win.
If you win, ten years later, your daughter will turn up pregnant.
Don't try to win. Try to learn.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'll never forget the day of our fight, because it's when I started traveling light.
Now I have it all figured out, especially with respect to nagging. We either do what our mothers did, or we do the exact opposite.
And hopefully, this is a conscious choice, since in due time, if we have any self-awareness at all, we catch on and live the examined life. We figure out our own way to parent, and even to live. We don't have to become our mothers unless we want to.
We have free will, and better shoes.
Most of the time, I want to become Mother Mary. I parent the same way Mother Mary did, in many ways, mainly in loving my kid more than words can say and saying so, complete with hugging, kissing, praising, and celebrating in general.
Mother Mary thinks it's cute when I fart, and that's what we call unconditional love.
Love is such a positive emotion, and kids need to hear it all the time, even grown-up kids. It makes everybody happier, like a hearty plate of spaghetti.
I'm Italian, remember?
But one thing that Mother Mary did not do is nag.
And there's a reason for that.
Let me remind you that Mother Mary grew up as the youngest of nineteen children. This is not a joke. Well, at least, I'm not kidding.
The Flying Scottolines were excellent Catholics, way back when.
Her mother, my grandmother, was married twice because her first husband died, probably from the exertion.
Even Italians have limits.
Anyway, I grew up with Mother Mary telling me stories from her childhood, all of which rival Angela's Ashes for their cheeriness. There were siblings who died in infancy. The family was so poor they ate her pet rabbit. There was no money to send anybody to college, and though my mother did well in school, her mother wanted her to drop out and get a job.
Nobody puts Mother Mary in a corner.
She defied her mother, worked while she went to high school, and graduated at the top of her class.
God bless her.
But even her funnier stories from her childhood make it sound like she was raised by wolves. Half the time, her parents didn't know she was around. Once she got pneumonia, and nobody noticed. No one helped her with her homework, got her to a dentist or doctor, or made sure that she had books or clothes, much less that she was dressed and ready for anything on time. In fact, she walked half the city to go to her high school, through some very rough neighborhoods, all by herself.
Needless to say, nobody nagged Mother Mary.
So when she raised me, she didn't know she was supposed to nag me. She didn't get the memo.
She made a decision to be more loving than her mother, and love came naturally to her. But although she loved us, and was there when she needed us, she just wasn't in our business. She always worked as a secretary, and we let ourselves in after school and were generally responsible for ourselves.
Not that I'm complaining. Brother Frank and I had a great childhood. We grew up happy, healthy, and pretty much in charge of our own fates. And when we got burned, we felt the consequences.
So we never did it again.
For example, Brother Frank started to ditch English classes in high school, and my parents didn't catch on until a notice came home saying he wouldn't be able to graduate.
My parents went hysterically to the school, which agreed to let him graduate if he went to summer school to make up the classes, but also required him to walk at the end of the processional line at graduation.
This was worse than it sounds.
The processional line was in order of height, and the guy at the end of the line was so tall he went on to play for the NBA.
Brother Frank was five feet, six inches.
At graduation, he looked like a sheepish caboose, or a punctuation mark at the end of capital letters, LIKE THIS.
And everybody laughed, eventually even Frank.
Fast forward to when I become a mother, with a daughter, and in the meantime, the world has changed. Walking at the end of the procession isn't the worst that can happen anymore. There's meth addiction, psycho killers, and reality television.
So you know where this is going.
I started nagging.
When Francesca was little, I nagged her to do her homework, take a bath, clean her room, and wear a heavier coat, and she always told me to stop nagging. Then one day, I remember the morning, she was in fifth grade, and I was rushing her out the door, nagging that we'd be late to school, and she simply burst into tears.
She said, "Mom, you're ignoring me. I'm asking you not to nag me, and you're ignoring what I say."
And I looked at my child, whom I had made cry, her round blue eyes brimming with tears. And finally, I heard her. I realized she was right. She has never been late for anything. She was even born on her due date.
I was nagging her because I needed to nag her, not because she needed to be nagged.
And that's why they call it emotional baggage.
I'm learning to check it, in all senses of the word.
Because I still carry it around, whether it's the way I parent or the way I deal with my daughter, my friends, men, the people I work with, and even my dogs.
Dogs don't have emotional baggage.
And if they did, they'd forget it at the airport.
They know they don't need it.
So I look for when it gets in the way of my relationships, especially mine to Francesca, as she grows older. We are best friends, but we're still smoothing out the wrinkles between us. It's a lifelong process, because we both keep growing, and those wrinkles have made for some of the best, worst, saddest, and funniest moments of my life.
This is a book that chronicles those moments. It's about our lives, my daughter's and mine, living both together and apart, as we both grow older. Precious few books are devoted to a mother's relationship with her adult child, which is crazy, because these bonds become more important, not less, as time goes on.
Family is forever.
So read on.
I bet that these stories will resonate with you, because you've had moments like these, too. The only difference between us is that Francesca and I wrote them down.
And, as you may have guessed, I haven't stopped nagging, not completely, especially not since she moved to New York, where the meth addicts and psycho killers form a processional of their own.
Though you'll read in the following pages about Francesca's adventures in the big city, complete with her own personal flasher.
The truth is, sometimes nagging is required, and sometimes it isn't, and the most anybody can ask of a mother is that we pause, examine what we're doing and why, then nag if it's in order. Then it's a conscious choice, and we reserve the right to nag.
Because we've lived longer, and we know more. Even if you're an adult child, we're still more adult.
And you have to listen to us. Not because we're your mothers, but because we listen to you.
And that's love.
Shakespeare Was No Dummy
Shakespeare asked, What's in a name? And The Flying Scottolines answered:
Last year, Mother Mary was revealed to be Mother Maria, after using the wrong name for eighty-six years. She was unmasked by TSA and the Florida DMV, so now you can rest easy. They've dealt with Mother Mary, and all that's left is Al Qaeda.
By the way, she used to call them Sal Qaeda, but I told her they weren't Italian.
And her name isn't the only problem, historically. My father was named Frank, and so was my brother, which led to confusion around the house. So my father became Big Frank and my brother became Little Frank, and sometimes even Little Frankie.
My brother thinks that's why he's gay, and I believe him.
He was stuck with Little Frankie until he wasn't so Little anymore, when he became Frankie and even opened a bar named Frankie & Johnnie's.
There's a hint for you, new parents. If you're trying to choose a name for your baby, imagine that name on a bar.
If it works for a bar, don't use it for your child.
We come finally to our present problem, which is Daughter Francesca. Her full name is Francesca Scottoline Serritella, which sounds like a federal indictment.
Mafia aside, the other problem is that it's too long for a book cover, even if you just go with Francesca Serritella. Here's another naming hint for new moms and dads. Instead of imagining your child's name on a bar sign, imagine it on a book cover.
Don't underestimate your kid.
Despite your best efforts, they may actually accomplish something.
And also, give them a name they can pronounce. Of course, when Francesca was a baby, she couldn't say Francesca. Many adults can't even say Francesca, including me, after a margarita.
I confess that I didn't think of that when I chose her name. She was named after my father and brother, as well as my best friend Franca, who was named after her own father, Frank.
It's a great name, okay?
So when Francesca was little, she pronounced Francesca as Kiki, and that stuck. Kiki has been her nickname for as long as I can remember, and everybody she knew growing up in grade school and high school called her Kiki.
So far, so good.
But starting college, she decided she wanted to start using her real name, and she introduced herself as Francesca. All her college friends called her Francesca, and in time, that led to confusion, because whether you called her Kiki or Francesca depended on when in her life you had met her, or if you'd actually given birth to her. We'll leave aside for the moment that Mother Mary calls her Cookie, which sounds a lot like Kooky, and we both know who's kooky.
Francesca doesn't mind if I call her Kiki, but I've noticed it's been a problem, for example, at the doctor's office, which has trouble finding her file because I refer to her as Kiki, but they have her filed under Francesca. And it wasn't so great the other day, when the confusion screwed up a prescription. Plus I've noticed the disconnect myself, when I talk to people and refer to her as Kiki, and then they meet Francesca and find her very nice, but they want to meet my daughter, Kiki.
Also, Kiki works for a bar sign.
Yet, still I persisted with Kiki. Until the other day, when I asked myself why.
Why did I cling to it, creating confusion? She had a preference, which she'd made clear, so why wasn't I honoring it?
Of course, you knew the answer before I did.
What's in a name?
Shakespeare asked that question, but he wasn't a mother.
To me, Francesca was still my baby. But I've decided that has to end.
Because I want my baby to get the right prescription.
And also, for a better reason. Her growing up, through school and college, is the process of forging her own identity. She has the right to define herself, and it begins with her name. She doesn't need to be reminded, every time we speak, that in my eyes, she's just a baby.
Because she's not, anymore.
She's a smart and lovely young woman, with a name that doesn't fit on anything.
And I learned an important lesson.
It's not only new parents who have to choose a name.
I love you, already.CHAPTER 3
I Love You, Man
My mom and I are total bros.
I realized this when we were at an opening weekend showing of Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol in IMAX. We had arrived early to snag prime center seats, and I watched the rest of the audience file in — it was all men. Packs of them, of all ages. Men with their friends, men with their sons, a handful of men with obliging girlfriends. It was as if you needed a Y chromosome to go with your ticket. We were the only women unaccompanied by a penis.
Did this make us uncomfortable?
Our only regret was not getting the pretzel bites.
You may be thinking that one action movie does not a dude-bro make. I confess that we write a column called "Chick Wit," but you can't judge a book by its pink jacket cover. In our separate lives, we are girls' girls, but when we get together, that all goes out the window.
Allow me to establish our bro cred:
Mission Impossible is only one of our action-movie-franchise loves. My mom sees every action-, superhero-, and testosterone-fueled movie that comes out, but The Transporter series is her favorite. If you don't know, these movies feature Jason Stratham shooting up bad guys while driving at about a million miles an hour.
My mom drives 50 mph in a 60 mph zone.
I fancy myself a highbrow bro, so my choice would be the Bourne series. But no matter, we're easy to please. Give us some car chases, explosions, and violence, but skip the gratuitous female nudity. We're like frat guys who are attracted to men.
So we're like frat guys.
Our taste in comedies is equally infused with bro'mones. If a movie is aimed at fourteen-year-old boys, we'll probably dig it. We own copies of such classics as Dude Where's My Car?, Role Models, and Superbad.
We loved Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and hated Love Actually.
I'm surprised we don't pee standing up.
I think these movies fried our brain, because we actually suggested Did You Just Fart? as a possible title for our last book to our female editor and agent.
I don't know which surprised me more, that we were deluded enough to think they'd like it, or that we were able to get the words out for laughing. We thought it was the best title ever and 100% true.
I never let my mom get away with a fart. I am the fart police. And we have five dogs, so my mom is often falsely accused. But in toots law, you're guilty until proven innocent, or in layman's terms, "the one who denied it, supplied it."
And like any good bro, I can dish it too. Not in real life — I would pass out before I allowed myself to pass gas in front of a friend or boyfriend — that's disgusting and rude. Unless I do it in front of my mom — then it's absolutely hilarious.
My mom and I also bond over football. Like a lot of guys, we have a baseline understanding of the sport — meaning we're low on stats, high on smack talk. It was my mother who raised me to be a proper Philly sports fan. That means you rag on the Eagles constantly, but you'd fight any out-of-towners who spoke against them. They are ours to hate, and ours alone.
We hate because we love.
I have this weird idea that my mom would be a great professional athlete, largely based on her ability to high-five. Her celebratory smacks feel like catching a fastball with your bare hand. At five-foot-two, she has the high five of LeBron James.
She will crush you.
After sports, another bastion of brohood is alcohol. Neither of us is a big drinker in our normal lives, but in recent years, whenever I'm home, my mom wants me to make us cocktails. She thinks that by virtue of living in New York City, I am now a certified professional bartender.
In reality, I only know how to make one drink really well, but it's the only drink you need: the margarita.
Tequila has a bad reputation, but like so many of us, it's just misunderstood. Forget shots, this spirit was made for sipping. I gave my mom a little education and now she's a tequila snob. She doesn't speak Spanish, but she knows the difference between anjeo, blanco, and reposado, and has opinions on each. Thankfully, we're on the same page that a true margarita has only three ingredients: tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime.
Don't even think about adding orange juice or sour mix in our house.
What is this, Mohegan Sun?
So we drink margs, catch the game, then watch Role Models again, and giggle if somebody burps.
How did we get this way?
Until a couple years ago, we didn't so much as have a male dog in the house. There were bras drying on the towel racks, Midol in the medicine chest, and a spare hair elastic in every drawer. It was all girls, all the time.
Maybe that's it. Maybe because for so long there was no man in the house, our sense of gender roles got softened. Or maybe those roles are just myths created by TV sitcoms anyway.
As they say, boys will be boys.
And sometimes, so will girls.CHAPTER 4
Motherhood Has No Expiration Date
I have a scientific theory the bonds that tie mothers and daughters are love and worry, like the two strands in the double helix of some very twisty DNA.
In other words, if I love you, I worry about you. And vice versa.
Let me explain.
The moment Daughter Francesca was born, I started to love and worry about her. And my worry, like my love, had no bounds. I worried if she was sleeping too much. I worried if she was sleeping too little. Same with crying, nursing, and pooping. If I was breathing, I was loving, and worrying. And my biggest worry, of course, was whether she was breathing. I'm not the only mother who has watched her baby sleeping to see if her chest goes up and down.
Excerpted from Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim by Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella. Copyright © 2012 Smart Blonde, LLC, and Francesca Scottoline Serritella. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim,
Shakespeare Was No Dummy,
I Love You, Man,
Motherhood Has No Expiration Date,
Ode to Vance Packard,
Field Guide to the American Male,
Boxers or Briefs,
Once Upon a Time,
Starry Starry Night,
The Many Homes of Mother Mary,
Stroke, Stroke, Bail, Bail,
The Facts of Life,
Wag the Technology,
I Stink, Officially,
You're So Vain, This Is About You,
There Was a Little Girl, Who Had a Little Curl,
Willpower and Won'tpower,
Hairy and Crazy,
Very Personal Shopper,
9/11, Ten Years Later,
Lisa Hits the Eggnog,
You Can Never Buy a Gift for a Mother,
And Many Happy Returns,
Dating at the Speed Limit, or the Bad News,
Dating at the Speed Limit, or the Good News,
Girl with a Pearl Earring,
Blizzard of Oz,
Mother Mary and the MRI,
Feet Don't Fail Me Now,
Slip Sliding Away,
In Which Spunky Teaches Me About Mother Mary,
In-box of Letters,
To Everything, There Is a Season,
All We Have to Do Is Take This Lie and Make It True,
Called to Order,
I Am Mother Mary,
Get Well, or Else,
An Open Letter from an Open Heart,
Other Nonfiction by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella,
About the Authors,