God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Month Later

A month ago today, I was tired, cranky, dazed and horribly incoherent. Having survived the trip home from Italy, I wondered if I would see normalcy again in my lifetime. By day two I thought I was fine, but when the end of the week came and I was still dealing with a frustrating tiredness, it hit me that I am getting older and adjustment takes longer. I just hate these reminders. If I can maintain denial I'm happy.

So now a month has passed and I am in what passes for normalcy; although Casey would tell you I am weird--and that that is normal. He thrives on having a weird gramma.

A recent aha moment came when I realized that I am comfortable here in my country in spite of my total infatuation with Italy.

Always in the past when we returned, adjustment was difficult as I so missed Italy and all that it offers. Eventually this longing led to the adventure of living there for twelve wonderful months. Returning to the US at that time was painfully difficult and traumatic as chronicled in entries from July, August and September 2007.

We have now had two more lazy summers there. We love those times and feel that we have arrived “home” when the plane lands. But this year we found the leaving a little less painful. Thoughts of home beckoned us—even Casey.

We know that we are just a plane ride away and that we will be back again and again. The sense of loss is lessened. Life here is just easier in many ways and this year I finally realize that I like that.

The wonderful roadways and byways displaying the beautiful scenery and landscape of Tuscany refreshes the soul but the ease of roadways and getting from here to there in San Diego is refreshing in its own way.

I love the little stores and shops in Italy where shop keepers are warm, friendly and delightfully helpful and food is always fresh but, I must admit, the frequency of large, get-whatever-you-need-in-one-place supermarkets has advantages. Yes, Italy has these in some places but for most people getting to them requires a considerable expenditure of time with the frozen things unfrozen by the time they reach home.

And…I love Costco where I can get all sorts of things—good new Tuscan olive oil, wonderful parmigiano-reggiano cheese from Parma, bufala mozzarella from Southern Italy, balsamic vinegar from Modena, fresh Dungeness crab from San Francisco, huge Alaskan crab legs, red-ripe tomatoes from Mexico and so much more. The biggest problem with Costco, as anyone knows, is that the “so much more” usually results in a huge deficit at the check-out stand. It is the ultimate venue for impulse buying but, then, what a deal.

I like my home here, for while it is in the city, it doesn’t seem like it. We have, by California standards, a large lot with pool, citrus trees, fountains and a fenced off area for a motor home (if we had one) which now houses Casey’s fort and bunches of other stuff—all in the midst of Ken’s gardening accomplishments.

I like my house—it is large and roomy with lots of storage. There is a park across the street.

I like that I have a church to attend—in fact a multitude of choices. When we lived in Italy, we would have our own little service, well—actually a Sunday School for Casey—each week. We are not Catholic and other denominations are few and far between—there was nothing near us. We believe in weekly attendance and very much want Casey to be grounded spiritually. This is the major reason we wouldn’t consider returning to Italy for another extended period—that and, unlike Casey, Ken and I have not been successful in learning the language. Living in another country without being fluent in the language is quite different from visiting, even when the visits are several weeks long.

I like going clothes shopping and finding clothes that fit. I know—Italy is the land of fashion and it’s everyone’s dream to fill back-home closets with fashions from bella Italia. The truth is that I have had minimal success finding clothes that I like and that fit while there. The reason? I am not sure.

I like the dollar rather than the euro. Now—that’s a no brainer. Not only is our currency exceedingly weak and so when you look at a €15 price tag, it is really $22, things in Italy (well, Europe in general) cost more than they do here even before the terrible conversion factor. A pair of Nikes that you might pay $100 for in the United States will cost close to $200 there. The three of us dining at a simple enoteca or trattoria approaches or exceeds $100. You use your credit card and so temporarily ignore the cost—until the bill comes the next month.

So, yes, the $ is better unless your currency is euro and you come here. Now, that’s a deal. People fly to New York just to shop the sales.

I like the visual stimulation in Casey’s classrooms and the diversity of teaching methods. I like that teachers put a premium on creative thought and development of personal opinion and justification of same. Casey had a wonderful third grade year in Italy and learned much. He grew and developed under the guidance of his teachers there; however, middle and high school is much different. Learning is very classical and didactic which is not negative and my friends’ children are brilliantly educated but the absence of nurturing critical thought is a negative in my mind. With that said, we may send Casey there for a year in high school at some point. As he is fluent in Italian and already has friends there, it might work well.

I like the ocean, the vast variety of culinary options, the richness of California in terms of desert, mountains, farm lands, forests and lakes. I like that we have a young and vibrant president. I like that I have friends in many, many of our 50 states. There is much I like here.

I don’t like the bitterness of the far-right political crazies—the birthers, those who oppose providing health care to everyone, those who cry socialism at every instance as a means to stop progress, those who think it is OK to disrespect the President of their country, those who think ends can justify the means, those who find the shallowness of Palin to be attractive and beguiling, those who believe this country can run without taxes, those who do not want to fund schools, etc. I have little patience for these people but fear them. The hate that they spew can have only one conclusion if left unchecked and then the nation and we will suffer.

And...to complete on a positive note...I like the history I have with friends here. I have many friends in Italy but they are new and they are spread out. Here I have old--well, long time--people who know me well and I know them. We have shared families, joys and hurts over the years. They are comfort. I love (not said casually) my Italian friends and treasure them--there is no lack of caring among us. They have an understanding of me that my friends here do not have and I turn to them. But the history is not there.

With all this said, I still miss, love and will keep returning to Italy—a country and people that hold much of my heart. It is just that it isn’t so bad here, after all.


Barbara said...

Sometimes I think we feel we must somehow 'justify' our love for both places, and that by embracing one culture we somehow reject the other. You've put everything into perspective here Jane, and express so eloquently how we can have a foot- and our hearts- in both Italy and the U.S.

Jane said...

Thanks, Barb. We share this understanding, don't we?

barb cabot said...

Dear Jane, Thank you for this most thoughtful and beautifully expressed post. I could not agree more. There's so much to be loved about both "homes" but I think it is so important to appreciate the things in our own backyard and to acknowledge the blessings of both places. Just such a deeply thoughtful and touching post.

Diana Strinati Baur said...

I think liking where you are is very important. And I think you have spent enough time here to know that looking at life in Italy with rose-colored glasses is short-sighted. People tend to romanticize this experience, and, well, you know how I feel about that. There are a lot of things about the States which are good, and it's nice to see those things recognized. Well done!

Kathy Wood said...

Jane, this post was very meaningful to me too. I think it is great that you have found a way to enjoy both lives and to appreciate them both for how they are different.

Diane said...

Jane, I couldn't have said it better, even though I am living a different result (in Italy, for now). You've summed up all the conflicts I also feel as I go back and forth thinking about which is a better place for us to live and Dante to be educated. For now it's here in Italy, but I miss the USA for most of the reasons you've mentioned (and when I'm there, I miss Italy. Sigh.)

Deb R said...

There no place like home...even after worldly travels. I agree with you as well!

Anonymous said...

Well said Jane, I am coming to similar conclusions myself!

Gail's Great Escapes said...

Having just returned to my U.S. home from my Italian one, this post is very timely for me. Jane, you always express your thoughts so eloquently, and seem to know how to get to the heart of the matter. There are things, attitudes, and situations I like and dislike about both of the countries I call home now. My Nirvana is not a place, it's a feeling at best. I try to find it within myself, and take it with me.

My comfort zone is widest in the U.S. because that is what I know the best. Anyplace else will always be a kind of struggle, a certain challenge, and returning to the U.S. is very relaxing for me! My "home" is where there are people I love, family and friends, and like you I feel lucky to have them in both places.

Jane said...

Hello friends, I'm sorry to take so long to say thanks for your comments. I must admit to being surprised by the way this hit home with several of you. Thanks for the nice words on the writing--always makes me feel good.

nancyhol said...


I loved your post. I can tell you spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I thank you for verbalizing your feelings.

Anne said...

What a beautiful post, Jane.

I am so thrilled to read someone else mentioning church as being part of their travels. When I returned from my solo trip to Florence last year and talked about worshipping at the Episcopal church there, I was surprised how many people found it bizarre that I would "use up precious vacation time" on church. But I don't see vacation as a chance to take a break from church, I see it as a chance to experience new forms of worship. (Although, I did miss my beloved home church!)

Peace be with you, my friend!