The day a loose moose wanders into town, it rattles four generations of an Italian/Canadian immigrant family into the realization that they are not the only ones that are displaced and confused. For those of you not familiar with a moose, it’s a large brown haired animal, with antlers, weighs close to a ton, appears to look dumb or confused, which it may or may not be, and it has feelings too.
The curtain rises on our narrator, a beer-toting, wisecracking moose on his way home after tipping a few with his fellow Moose Lodge members.
He introduces us to the Tappino family: grandparents RODOLFO & PINA, their daughter MARIA and her husband GIUSEPPE, all of whom left the Mediterranean warmth of Southern Italy in the early 60s for a better life elsewhere. Like many immigrants at that time, the Tappino’s never bothered to look at a map and therefore had no idea of where they were actually headed, except that it was somewhere in North America. After the long journey by ship and then train, they reached their final destination - Way Up Bay. It’s called ‘way up’ because it’s WAY UP in bush country, north of Lake Superior, where wind-chill drops winter temperatures below forty-Celsius and snow banks can reach two meters high.
Raising a family in Northern Ontario is a challenge for the Tappino’s. They don’t speak English and their adult kids - all four of them born in Canada - don’t speak Italian. Like all immigrant children, they try to blend in and assimilate to feel Canadian, whatever Canadian is, but at home, their parents’ old world attitudes make for a lot of communication breakdown in daily spirited debates over . . . well, pretty much everything.
Daughter CARMELA is married to DARRYL who is not Italian. They have a little boy, TIMOTHY, whose grandparents can’t pronounce his name and call him Team. Older son BRUNO, a couch-potato, is glued to the weather channel and is dating HONABIGI, also not Italian. She’s an indigenous girl who works for the Ministry of Game and Wildlife. Younger brother JOSEPH is studying to be a nurse, whom his father likes to say, “Is not a job for a man.” GINA - the oldest - moved to the big city to work in Marketing. Her parents have no idea why she’s there, who she dates, or what it means to work in Marketing.
With our moose on the loose stuck in the backyard camper trailer of their Polish neighbor, everyone is calling the Tappino household to find out what’s going on. Giuseppe - after a shot or two of home-brewed Grappa - grabs his hunting rifle and goes outside because he wants to shoot the moose. Through a complete misunderstanding and culture clash with the local Police Chief, because Giuseppe’s English comprehension is not that good, he is arrested and jailed. At the same time Giuseppe’s moose ordeal is unfolding, GINA arrives home from overseas to announce that she is pregnant but not married to a man the family has never met.
With so many issues converging at the Tappino household on this cold and snowy November day, Italian family drama, chaos, confusion, and dysfunction ensue. It’s a free for all, first in the crowded smelly jail, with the entire family present, to bail Giuseppe out, and later at the kitchen table over Gina’s unexpected pregnancy. A whole lot of other generational and moral issues surface, from which the kids learn the sacrifices their grandparents and parents made coming to Canada in order to give them a better life. Of course reconciliation – for Giuseppe at least – is made easier by knowing Gina’s new man and husband to be is . . . Italian.
Bottom-line . . . whether you're a moose on the loose, a child of immigrant parents, or an Italian from Calabria living in Way Up Bay, Ontario . . . blending in is never easy.