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.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Missing Italy

Just decided it was time to write something and had no idea what until the fingers, with their own volition, inserted a title. And...I realize that it is right. I do miss Italy right now. It has been over a year since being there with another 4½ months ahead of us--too long.

Lately, I have been corresponding with a woman who is planning her family's own "year in Italy", triggering memories and nostalgia for me. It seems as if it were just yesterday that we were going through the trials of dealing with the infamous Italian embassy, getting our FBI clearance, translating documents, finding a place to live--and most importantly, determining what was best for Casey's schooling. Many of you followed those early days with us. Can you believe that it was 6 years ago when we began the journey  and 4½ years since we arrived at our home in Greve in Chianti? It seems so just yesterday.

Casey was 8 years old--in retrospect such a little boy. I didn't realize then how small he was and the expectation we were putting on him.

What was it like entering a classroom where everyone jabbered and he understood not  a word?  Sitting there 8 hours a day, wondering what was happening around him. It is amazing that there were only two or three nights when he went to bed with tears--encouraging us to stay but letting him go "home." My heart still hurts for him when I think of those times. But....I knew that if we, he, could get through the beginning, the end would be good.

And, it was. Before long, he held his own with the new language, laughed with the other children, enjoyed going to school, and even earned good grades. Children came over to play; birthday party invitations arrived; karate sessions were anticipated; the piazza was his. The rhythm of life was established and life was good. Saturday at the cinema was an event; the gelateria ladies smiled and knew him. He even enjoyed the museums of Florence.

When the day came to leave, the pain was greater than those early nights of crying. His soul hurt as he said goodbye to the best friend he has ever known.

It was hard for Ken and I, too, as we took in the beautiful, quintessential Tuscan hills and landscapes that had been ours for a year. Leaving was painful.

We have been back for several weeks each year except for this last summer. We went to Kenya instead. I don't regret that, how could I? Lions in trees, trumpeting elephants, zebras and giraffes and wildebeests and cheetahs? You just don't see these in Tuscany. But, underneath that, we did miss our Tuscan home.

 Home at the Top of the Stairs

Casey is no longer a little boy.  He is taller than me now--by a smidge.

 Mr. GQ
When we are in Tuscany next summer, he will become a teenager--his 3rd birthday there. With all our travels, he has had more birthdays in Italy than here in San Diego.

I wonder what it will be like when he and his friend meet after a two year absence. Will their bonding unite them again immediately or will it take a while. Casey doesn't think so. They say they are closer than brother and sister, girlfriend/boyfriend.

So, what do I miss? Long, leisurely drives discovering secret roads, hidden chapels, roadside shrines. Quiet lunches at out of the way places; shopping at the COOP; favorite restaurants, Bruno's hugs; the bus to Firenze; friends; the piazza; Sara; Signora Franca; the gelateria; so much, too much.

The thing is though--it will all be there waiting. Things don't change too fast in the Chianti. Panzano will be up the hill; the drive to Figline will be the same curves and small hamlets; my friend will be home in Chiocchio. All will be well.

I can't wait!

 A Different View of Greve in Chianti