Every week, I meet in a women’s writing group to ‘free write’ and this week I wrote about Italy. In ‘free writing’, we start with a jump off word or idea, and the only rule is just keep the pen moving, no editing, no stopping to think. So thought I’d share my “I remember, I don’t remember” piece.
I remember Italy, visiting for the first time, that sunbaked boot of a country, home of the Great Roman Empire 2000 years ago, that extended out to Constantinople and Great Britain and Egypt. That turquoise Mediterranean water, crystal clear, healing, washing over me, while my ancestors slept in their graves in San Giovanni in Fiore, in Calabria. I don’t know them but I do know them, when I drink wine and eat from the earth, in their country, Italy.
They will remember me as I write their names on the family tree, Giuseppe Spadafora, Francesco Vallelonga, Teresa Chiara, Emmacalata Fragomeni Vallelonga.
I remember the pulse of the country, as Lady Caroline Dester mused in the movie, Enchanted April, “your mind slips sideways here.” And Mrs. Fisher, the lonely elderly widow, leaving her cane behind melts her stodgy ways, “What is that stirring inside me, like a child” and she picks up the watercolors and begins to paint, with the Portofino blue waters and mountains as her back drop.
I remember Italy, riding a bike on a clear blue September Tuscan afternoon, and remembering a childhood feeling, like a warm hunk of hot bread smothered with butter. This is a life worth living–sundried tomatoes, artistically placed on the top of the sea bass, branzini, gently covered with the local ligurian olive oil (each region claims they have the best olive oil), a small handful of pine nuts, a sprinkling of olives, tender slices of potatoes all baked to perfection, on the outdoor table, next to the beautiful Italian gentleman, who spoke so sweetly with us, and took our photo with my camera. He was with two women and I wanted to listen to their conversation.
I remember the man on the shore with the three foot long fish he had caught that morning, I remember taking his photo. Was I now eating his catch here in Chiavari.
I remember the man in an orange jumpsuit who saved us when the man at the ticket counter earlier had sold us the wrong tickets. Now at 9:30 at night, 45 minutes from our hotel, I remember being able to speak Italian to him and understand some of what he was saying. Forced to communicate, held over the fire, makes me speak a language I struggle to learn. Can I remember to hold myself over fire in every moment, like this is the last moment I will ever speak. Can I do it? Will I? No emergency just a blip in the time capsule, called my life.
My, ‘I Remember Italy’ memoir would mix recipes, food, travel and bits of happiness and belief wisdom. I don’t know that it will ever manifest. Seems as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest or jumping out of a plane. Two things I don’t plan on doing, but want to remain open.
The motivational speaker from Australia on the Sunday morning show, is really just a stump of a person. He has one foot sticking out of his hip, and he jumped out of a plane, off a diving board, and like a dolphin, swam back up to the surface, smiling. He even golfs with his shoulder. I remember he does not see limits.
I remember a lot about food in Italy and even more the art in life of Italy. The way the pasta or jars of olive oil are arranged in the windows, and in the outdoor markets, like a gift given, a Michelangelo sculpture.
The train worker in orange, kept saying, I got off work an hour ago, I don’t know why I’m still here. Well, because you were supposed to stay to help the 10 of us get back to our hotel 45 minutes away at 9:30 at night. That’s why. I remember and want to remember all the synchronicities of my life. His girlfriend was waiting for him, but so were we.
The heart centered people of Italy–the older gentleman taxi driver who walked me into the train station at Montecatini to make sure I boarded the correct train.
I Remember Italy. Italy is a land to always remember, over and over again.
What do you remember about Italy?
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.