My sister (M) was just here saying good bye to me for the last time before she leaves to spend her second semester junior year in college in Italy. How crazy. It seems like yesterday that I did the same thing. Only it was 9 years ago. How can that possibly be? I do not feel that much older. And yet the next time I see M, I will be a mother. I guess we are both kind of starting spectacular journeys.
My time in Italy was wonderful. Not sure whether it is the age (20) or just the incredible freedom that comes from living in a foreign country with no one to answer to and only your passport to play with. But those six months were the freest I ever felt in my life, from taking weekends in Venice, Verona and San Marino to hopping the trains to Paris and Vienna and Prague, there was never anyone or anything that could stop me from doing exactly as I wanted. I was single (for the last time in my life, actually), just like M. There was nothing to do but meet cute boys, dance all night and learn Italian. I did some crazy and dangerous things--things I would not want my daughter to do. I met a Harvard student on line at American Express and before we'd reached the front, I'd agreed to travel with him for five days to Vienna and Prague. Sure, it turned out fine. But what if it hadn't? I miss that immaturity, that belief in invincibility but I have long since left it behind. Still, it was what allowed me to take incredible chances, to sky dive and to scuba dive, to throw myself from 40 foot cliffs, trusting the water below was deep enough to catch me. I think everybody needs a little bit of that to help them grow and become people with open minds and wide life experiences.
I hope M has a similar experience. I would be lying if I did not say I am slightly envious watching her leave. There is so much she still has left do and I am a bit wistful thinking of all that freedom ahead of her. I will miss her, too. Terribly. As she left, I realized it was the last time she would see me pregnant. When I pick her up at the airport in June, I will have a baby with me (G-d willing).
I looked back through my travel journals and I found this passage dated April 30, 1998 (a few days before heading out of Italy to travel for a few weeks and then head back to the States): "As I prepare to leave Italy, there are little things that I am scared I will forget. The way the green thermos pops with the most delightful noise every morning, the bowl of ever-present fresh fruit with one huge chunk missing from its side, the way my feet freeze on the marble floor each morning. I am sure I will have no trouble at all detailing exactly where I went on my weekend trips, but I wonder if I will remember the details of a four hour conversation had in a trattoria in Bologna. Right now I am so involved in my life, so concerned with the mundane that I tend not to realize that there are so many small things that will never be this way again. I will probably never be able to smoke a cigarette on my host mother's balcony after dinner while listening to the rapid Italian of the woman on the floor below. Nor will I be able to walk the same route to school every morning to Piazza Savanarola, avoiding dog waste and choosing which bridges to cross. This trip has been both up and down, both sad and blissful, when people ask me how it was, I will have such a hard time responding. Can I ever truly explain this experience? All of the tiny puzzle pieces that, together, make the whole picture. How can I take those pieces apart and put them back together some place new? Which pieces will I take with me and which will I leave behind?"
Me and a friend in Sienna, Italy (note that this is now my third haircolor in this blog. Yes, I like to change shades--frequently. But I am sticking with my natural dark blond/light brown now):
Me and K at the Paris opera house (I went to visit her in Paris where she was living):
My host mom, roommate and me at her beach house:
I wish you all this and more, M. I love you!