Italy, What's Not to Love, Really

Italy. What's not to love, really? Save for the intolerable neighbors next door, who send me spinning into fits of schizophrenia every time I come home. In a house made of marble and stone, the shrieks of a terrible two-year old are hard to ignore. Wine to drown the mounting ire. Music to mask the madness. The eerie comfort of realizing home is where I can be alone, and that this place is the furthest from home I’ve ever been. From the balcony, mountains linger beneath painted skies like some lullaby. A mirage of sorts, impossible to find.

My house is undone; furnished with frames without photos, unfinished stuff. That’s the way home goes..

The doorbell rang three times as I debated whether or not to answer. ‘Vieni’ was all that Daniela said as she took me by the arm and pulled me next door. ‘E il mio cumpleano oggi. Questa e mia nonna. Vieni, vieni.’ I stood there like an idiot – in absolute bewilderment. ‘Vedi, ho fatto questi per te.’ Daniella smiled as she passed me a platter of homemade desserts. I took just one and tried to pass the plate on but was met with a tide of disapproving looks. ‘Ma figurati, tutto per te! Vedi!’  She walked over to her birthday cake, cut it nearly in half, and thrust the chocolate mountain toward me. ‘Ecco. Ti piace ciocolato?’

Did I like chocolate? Was this really happening? Was I really standing with a family spanning four generations, double-fisting two plates of sweets while trying to interpret a tidal wave of Italian and ignore the teletubbies dancing on t.v.? A smiling two-year old looked up at me and shrieked.

Yeah. This was real. Surreal. This was Italy. ‘Siamo famiglia adesso. Vieni. Devi vedere casa mia.’ Arm in arm, she ushered me through every room. She shared baby pictures, showed me birthday presents, and ran her fingers through my hair while shouting out to her grandmother – who sat quietly at the kitchen table smoking a cigarette and sipping cafe – that we shared the same hair color.

Daniela proclaimed her undying love for New York City and Johnny Depp – and that she and I were forever sisters and friends. She offered to trim my hair, I promised to take family photos, and then I was back in my house – holding enough food for a family of four. A feeling of hopelessness replaced by happiness – just like that. Before I could put the food away, there was yet another buzz at my door, and another kidnapping. Two steaming hot shots of espresso, an invitation to sit, to watch a movie, to be part of the family. And then, it was like the rest had never even been.