Monday, April 1, 2019

Memories of our Italian adventure are still fond, fresh and sweet

Eighteen years ago, I fulfilled a life-long dream when I took a leave of absence from teaching high school journalism and graphic design to teach 5th grade for a year in Padova, Italy. My wife willingly and cheerfully joined the adventure. My two teen daughters, still in the stages of discovering themselves, acquiesced, but with mixed feelings. They cried and begged to be left in the States with friends, but we insisted they participate. Friends told us they would thank us later, but I can’t say we didn’t have doubts along the way.

We met bureaucratic, logistic and financial obstacles, but somehow we found our way through or around them all. We struggled, laughed and cried together. We got lost countless times and made plenty of other mistakes. We learned to compromise, share, adapt and adjust, to stretch ourselves and face our fears of the unknown. Eventually, I wrote a book about our experiences: An American Family in Italy: Living la Dolce Vita without Permission.

Lucy and I have returned to Italy for shorter stays many times since, and in 2015 we bought a home in Montecarlo, near Lucca. Daughters Suzye and Lindsey have also made short trips back, but until recently, never at the same time. This spring, we decided to help them come together, and they joined us in Tuscany for nine days of the sweet life. We dined with friends and relatives, lounged in the thermals baths of Saturnia and explored medieval cities together. Mostly, we just enjoyed each other’s company, creating new memories and reminiscing about our previous adventures.

The struggles, angst and mini-rebellions they experienced as teenagers are far in the past. They are mature, compassionate adults with successful careers, and we loved every minute of their too-short visit. A highlight of our shared time came on the last day, when we re-created the cover illustration of our book, this time using the Fortezza of Montecarlo as the backdrop. Suzye, Lindsey and Lucy have changed little in appearance. Though my gray hairs provide mute evidence that 18 years have passed, the memories are still fond, fresh and sweet.

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