Saturday, February 05, 2005

Remembering Italy (5/15/03)

I am always mindful of anniversaries, and today I am noting one of the happier ones in my life. It was exactly one year ago this morning that Sheila and I boarded a plane at Salt Lake International Airport for the first leg of our very memorable 13-day trip to Italy. It hardly seems real that an entire year has passed already, but what an eventful year it has been for us! We had absolutely no idea at the time that by summer's end we would be moving to Arizona, in what is shaping up to be one of the most fortunate decisions Sheila and I have ever made together; but for perhaps precisely that reason, the trip seems now to have acquired a significance we could not have realized at the time. My life, after all the years of seemingly-endless struggle and upheaval, appears at long last to be settling down; and if this is indeed so, the journey to Italy has become a sort of watershed, as it were, marking the end of one period of my life and the beginning of another.

As for the trip itself, the memories keep coming back, including some that were never mentioned in the mass e-mails I sent out while we were there. Last week, for example, I reminded Sheila of the thousands of little red flowers that attracted our fascinated attention during the train trip between Rome and Florence. Intrigued by them, I asked a conductor what they were called, and she responded with a word as lovely as the flowers themselves: "Papaveri," she said. And so to me, now and forever, a red poppy will never be a red poppy; it will always be a "papavero." And the encounter at the tourist center with the young woman who expressed such surprise and delight at being spoken to in her own language by an American remains, in my view, the sweetest moment of the entire trip. By speaking to her in Italian, I let her know, in perhaps the best way I could, that I respected her country and her culture; and by her reaction, she let me know that my efforts were appreciated. If I had abandoned my study of Italian after that trip, I think this experience alone would have been worth the hundreds of hours I had invested in learning the language.

Last Saturday night I took my wife out to dinner at a restaurant -- Italian, of course -- called the Tutti Santi, which will probably become a frequent hangout for us (and where the owner, who hails from San Remo, launched into effusive praise of my Italian.) To the accompaniment of Puccini arias broadcast over the restaurant's PA system, we spent the whole evening reminiscing about the trip, and plotting our next one. (BTW, it was during this meal that I suggested "O mio babbino caro" as something appropriate to be sung at my funeral, even though it is not a religious song -- in fact, only opera buffs are aware that it is from a comic opera -- but I have always considered it one of the loveliest songs ever written, and it has meant a lot to me.) I have doubts whether Sheila will be able to make another trip to Europe, owing to her numerous health problems. (As if the existing ones were not enough, she was recently told by her doctor that she is virtually certain to develop diabetes.) But on this, I hope I am wrong. If I can't go with her, I am considering making a second trip to Italy, this time accompanied by my son, whom I have been carefully indoctrinating about the wonders of Rome, Assisi, and Florence.

I have kept all the e-mail messages in my Juno inbox, and occasionally still receive requests for them. In fact, I am now in the process of sending them to a young co-worker who may have a week to spend in Europe before she starts law school in the fall, and is trying to decide where to go. [The friend referred to here is none other than Rebekah Browder, who has signed on as one of the contributors to this blog. I hope we all get to hear from her frequently.] I have, of course, recommended Florence. Soon I am going to be printing off all the e-mails and having them bound at Kinko's, after which they will serve as my journal of the trip.

Meanwhile, the routine of work beckons, and I will be spending this anniversary interpreting for potheads and crack addicts down in the EDC. I hope it will not be long before I can make another trip, to share with you through another series of mass e-mails.

Ciao a tutti voi,



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