Tuesday, May 3, 2011

La Dolce Vita e Molto Caro

Twenty years ago, you packed your bags. It was time to go home. Mostly you packed shirts and pants and socks, squeezing them into the corners and crevices of your suitcases. You rolled them up, not caring about the state they would arrive in.  You were certain you would never want to wear any of them again, having worn them over and over and over during your months there. They had been scrubbed within an inch of their lives and hung out to dry by your faithful Italian host mama, bleached in the strong Italian sun and dried to a crisp.

You packed the camera, the film, the journal. The notebooks, the sketches. 

You packed the souvenirs and gifts for your family, gathered during visits to Venice, to Florence, to Rome, to San Gimignano, to Assisi. Books, panforte, a silver Etruscan ring, a compass, Murano glass. You didn't bring back much for yourself--a green suede jacket, a book of photos, a ring, some Florentine paper.

Most of what you brought back couldn't be packed. Your fluency in Italian. Your habit of eating fruit after meals. The peculiar way you peel oranges. An appreciation for deep blue sky and ancient stone. Your love for the ridiculous shapes of cypress trees and umbrella pines. Your memories--of tap-dancing on a bridge over the Arno, of standing in the same room that Michelangelo doodled in, of lounging in the Campo, of navigating Europe by yourself. The sweetness you felt for your host family.

You also brought back your homesickness. You wouldn't need it anymore, of that you were certain. You didn't realize that Siena was also home now, and years later, you would feel the homesickness in reverse.

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