In the hours before the first De Luca family dinner in recent history, Stella De Luca, the 67 year old matriarch of the family, ran around her house preparing. She laid out appetizers, tended to her gravy ("Real Italians call it gravy, not tomato sauce," she always said), and tidied up the place. Sudoku books and romance novels went into boxes that she placed haphazardly in her bedroom, her worn and used Bible went from the top of the book shelf to the center of the living room coffee table. It was mindless for her, as she had been preparing for parties for decades. She had not changed her ways in all that time; Same items, same recipes, same oven, same everything. Her diner plans were frozen in time, just like her house and herself.
Her house had been in the family since her father had bought it in 1940. Little had changed in it, even when renovations were done it was made to look almost exactly similar. The wallpaper design had never changed, a simple floral pattern with a peach background. Light brown woodwork framed the walls from the top and bottom. The floors were an inviting hardwood made of pine. The entryway was all the way to the right in the front of the house, there only being room for a small closet to it's right. The living space, which was to it's left, had a very large throw-rug underneath that was once vibrant, but faded with age. It's furniture was ancient, having not been moved since its reupholstering in the 80s. It created a perimeter around the space that had an apex at the front. The apex was a dusty, ugly chair. This was Stella's. Unlike most houses in 2012, there was no TV to be seen ("I think that there are far more productive things to do with my time than watch the magic box!") Directly behind the living room was the dining room. The dining room had no such rug (as it was easier to clean up any spilled messes), but it did have a beautiful walnut table that stretched almost the entire room. There was room for ten, counting the two heads. The dining room's rightmost wall was on the same line as the imaginary perimeter of the Family room. On the other side of it, with a small entrance at the far back of the wall, was the kitchen.
The kitchen was floored with faded green tiles. The wallpaper was similar to the rest of the house, though the floral pattern was more ornate. The appliances, through many repairs, have been able to avoid replacement. One year, two of Stella's children tried to replace them for her birthday. She had an incoherent fit about it, and they never tried again.
Stella spent the entire day preparing the house. All the while, she spoke out loud, though not to herself. She directed her words upward. "Benito, I wish you were here for this. This is just the kind of thing you loved, all the family getting together and just having a good old time. Why, I don't think that the kids have all been together since Jack joined that biker gang. He still stops by every now and then, but in the rare event he is, it's hard to pull Raymond away from his job at the company and Deborah is always running around with Kelly to some Godforsaken competition. I can't even remember the last time I had the two of them in the same place. It must have been when Ray and that good for nothing ex-wife of his had Rose! Oh, that was a magical day. Maybe today can be like that too. Could you ask the good Lord to make it so? I asked him this morning in Church, but it'll mean more coming from the two of us." She continued to talk to her deceased husband as she put the finishing touches on her house. She talked to him about everything, and nothing as well. It was the same when he was alive, and she saw no reason to "Today will be a good day Benito. I can feel it in my bones."