Trail of Crumbs

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Going to the castle made me sad. Not because I didn’t have fun. I had a lovely time.

But I knew it was all going to be over soon. My aunt and uncle and cousin had to drive back to their village, and the next day we’d leave for the Amalfi coast. I’d be back again – I was sure of it (Rand had already declared it himself), but this trip to Frigento was winding to an end.

 

When I was a kid, I remember positively bawling when my aunt and uncle had to return to Italy. Whenever anyone came for a visit and then left. I’d desperately wish to be a grown-up, because they never seemed to cry at the end of a trip. I mistakenly assumed this was because goodbyes no longer made them sad.

But that isn’t the case. As an adult, you just get better at not collapsing into a heap of tears and snot. Most of the time, anyway.

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I suppose I should have warned Rand.

Rand, sitting with my great-aunt. He had absolutely no idea what was in store for him

 

Honestly, though, I thought he knew. That is why I didn’t lean over and whisper, “Pace yourself. There are four more courses to go.”

I mean, why else are they called primi and secondi? They are referring to courses. What they don’t really mention in Italian restaurants is that those are just the beginning.

There are also antipasti and contorni and insalate and dolci. There is wave after wave of food, eaten by ridiculously skinny people (don’t ask me how this works, because I haven’t cracked that part of the code. I can only assume that incorporating vigorous hand gestures into conversation burns crazy amounts of calories. So if I look like I’m trying to direct a plane the next time I’m engrossed in a polite chat, that’s why.)

In Italy, the midday meal (pranzo) is a sort of sprawling feast, lasting hours. It is the reason many of the shops in Italy are closed between noon and 3 pm. Because food is more important than Capitalism.

Come to think of it, that might as well be my family’s mantra.

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Me, talking to Marciano about his creations. Notice how much I use my hands when I speak Italian.

Yesterday, I may have exaggerated slightly when I said that I found my aunt’s home all by myself. I was caught up in the poetry of it, of the idea that I could wander the same ancient streets that my grandparents did, and find their loved ones’ homes without needing an ounce of help.

But that isn’t the entire story.

Marciano helped.

It was the morning after we’d arrived in Frigento. Marciano saw Rand and I walking outside our pensione and stopped us.

“Ma, voi a chi partiene?”

To whom do you belong?

In that question lies everything you need to know about life in this part of the world. That everyone here knows everyone else, and if a stranger wanders in, it is because they are connected. They belong to someone here.

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Not the green door we were looking for.

 

“What’s the address?” Rand asked.

I shrugged. “No idea.”

“Is it on this street?”

“I think so? The door is green.”

(I feel it pertinent to note that nearly half the doors in the village happened to also be green.)

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I am jumping around in time, because I can’t let another day go by without telling you about Peru. My tales from Florida, from New York, from Philly (including the best cupcake I have ever had),  and from our road trip to Ashland will all have to wait.

Our trip to Peru was one of contrasts. We landed in Lima and spent a few days there. Our hosts were gracious, and people were absurdly friendly. Even the cabby who ripped us off (yes, there was one) though a liar and a cretin, was not that much of a jerk. It felt remarkably safe, and people seemed to be enthused – or, at least, not thoroughly annoyed – by tourists. It was a delightful change of pace.

I found the city to be at a crossroads – both striving to preserve its past and ready to launch into the future.

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As a kid, I never understood the expression “You can’t go home again”. I thought it was idiotic. After sleepovers at friends’ houses, after long afternoons at band practice, after a week at SeaCamp (oh, don’t act so surprised: I was and still am a dork), home was always waiting for me. No matter how much time had passed, I’d reasoned that the one thing that you could always go back to was go home.

As I grew older, my understanding of this concept changed slightly. You could still go home, but you might find that someone else lives there. Or that you aren’t welcome any more. Or that your room has been turned into a storage closet and all of your personal possessions are “in the attic” or were “given to the Goodwill.”

Time passes, people change, and sometimes home is no longer that. This realization hit me a few weeks ago, when I returned to the only place besides Seattle that I’ve ever called home: Indialantic, Florida.

What’s that? … Oh, please. You have NOT heard of it. You are thinking of Indiana. Or possibly Atlantis. Both of which have a larger population of residents/mer-people than Indialatic (pop: 3,000).

Indialantic lies on a spit of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, and its name is as portmanteau of those two bodies of water. It is not vibrant or bustling. There’s no movie theater. I don’t know what kids nowadays do on a Saturday night (I know what we did. We rented Jeff Goldblum movies and giggled at his impossibly small waist. Kids today now ogle hairless, poreless young men who were probably genetically engineered by Disney. How sad.)

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Kelsey, the blogatrix behind Drifting Focus, recently wrote about her struggles with OCD before she leaves on a trip. She often finds herself packing and re-packing her bags, double-checking to make sure everything is where it should be. It is an honest, candid account of what she has to deal with before traveling, and an inspiring one as well –  as uncomfortable as preparing for a trip is, she doesn’t let it stop her from seeing the world.

While I can’t say that my compulsions are as strong as Kelsey’s, I, too, find that in the days and hours before I’m about to leave for a trip I get, as I like to call it, “a little buggy.” As I say this, please note that I in no way intend to trivialized the difficulties of living with OCD. So please, save that hate email for a post in which I truly deserve it. There are many.

I’m merely saying that to a very small, small degree, I empathize.

My pre-trip compulsion is this: I obsessively clean my home from top to bottom. I dust. I polish. I organize. I place items at right angles, and indiscriminately shred documents, prompting my husband to ask, “Um, are you making sure the house is spotless for anyone who breaks in while we’re away?”

“Yes,” I respond, scrubbing behind the guest toilet that never gets used. I’ll proceed to wash every bit of laundry I can find, including pulling just-washed throw blankets off the couch and tossing them into the machine, thankfully stopping before I get to the pillows (which reminds me – I need to fluff those).

“Baby,” Rand will say, gently, “The house looks great. Please stop.”

“Whatever. Hand me the vacuum and that bottle of bleach. I need to go brush my teeth.”

Excuse me a moment while I clean parts of the stove no one will ever use or see.

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Years ago, my husband made a crucial mistake when speaking to my mother.

He was honest.

I know, I know – the idiot, right? He has yet to live it down. The date of his grievous error was sometime in 2006. We had had a fantastic time visiting my dad in Germany before driving down to Italy, where we spent a few days hopping around between Milan, Como, and Venice. When we got back, my mother asked Rand how the trip was.

What he said, exactly, when he replied to her, is a subject of debate. I hold to my own, because my memory is a vast and incredible thing, and has rarely let me down. My mother (though she has yet to say it outright) believes that my account of history has been tainted by my feelings of affection towards my husband. And Rand has the memory of a goldfish, so he’s not really part of this discussion, even though he’s the reason for it.

My account is this: Rand told her, truthfully, that he while he enjoyed Italy, he was surprised by how much he loved Germany. Bavaria in particular had started to grow on him.

My mother’s account, however is this: Rand told her, to her face no less, how much he hated Italians, and Italy, and how Germany was far superior. Also, he obviously loves my dad more than her, and apparently, so do I.

Sigh.

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