The International Writers Magazine: Italy
She and I
I dreamt of my mother every night I was in Italy. It had been two months since she died, and no, I wasn’t there to “find myself,” I was there for my honeymoon.
It was June. Originally, I was supposed to go in April, after my wedding, but my mom got too sick, so I cancelled both the wedding and the trip. I know she was furious.
Truth be told, June was a better time to go anyway. I had cuter clothes for walking around Rome in ninety-degree weather – sundresses, tank tops, short shorts that kind of look like skirts. Oh, and we could never have sunbathed in Positano if it were April. No, it’s definitely good that we went in June.
I enjoyed myself. A lot. And I didn’t feel guilty. I did decadent things, indulgent things, things I normally don’t do. I ate pasta with – not for – every meal; I drank wine every day; I wore smoky eye make-up every night. It was smart to wait. If I’d gone in April I just would have been thinking about my mom the whole time, spending a fortune on international calls.
And I didn’t worry about my dad or sister during that time. Normally, I do. But, no, not now. This was my time. They were fine at home without me.
I bought souvenirs for her, nothing extravagant. Just little glass-blown candies and mass cards that read “Health of the Sick” from a church we wandered into our first day there. It was only right. Of course, if she were living I would have bought her the hand-stitched sandals and cream-colored wrap I saw at that shop on Via di Pietra. This was appropriate for the situation at hand, though. Clothes would have been creepy, weird. When I returned, I placed the trinkets next to her urn, which sat in my dad’s bedroom. That was where she belonged, you know? No, there was never a discussion about it – she didn’t even have a will! – but it was right to have her home with us instead of in the ground with a bunch of strangers. Plus, she was always cold. It’s warm at our house.
We got lost on our way to the Colosseum. I think that was my favorite day; well, one of my favorite days. Oh, and the getting lost part, not the Colosseum part. Don’t get me wrong, the Colosseum was great! Mind-boggling, really; but the city was perfect and dry and everything looked brighter that day. We got big bottles of water – or bottiglia d'acqua – and lugged them around. (That was the Italian phrase I had perfected, by the way. I was always responsible for ordering the water when we were out to eat. I’d throw in a “frizzante” if we were feeling fancy.) We moseyed into a really expensive furniture store and pretended we were going to purchase something, and then, somehow, we were spit out onto a field, where World Cup fans rallied. I was in the present, enjoying myself, no other thoughts. Oh, except for when we passed the little flower kiosk that was selling bougainvillea. My mom loved bougainvillea and surely would have stopped if she were there.
||Positano was heart-breakingly beautiful, as surely you have heard. The air tastes like lemon and the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean make you want to cry. Not because you are sad though, because they’re so gorgeous and quiet. I don’t think my mom would have even liked Positano that much – well, she would have liked it, everyone likes it – but she’s more of a city gal.
But she definitely would have enjoyed the food there. The fresh vegetables and fish – that’s so us. We both always liked healthy food. My dad and sister had the sweet teeth. Our family was kind of divided in that sense.
|I got a tan when I was there, like a real, I-was-just-on-vacation obnoxious tan. Normally, I wear sunscreen, but I wanted to be dark, like how I was when I was little. I always liked the way I looked with a suntan, but stopped getting them because I was too worried about wrinkles and skin cancer. Mostly wrinkles.
I’d fall asleep on the beach each day after a glass of wine because, really, who sleeps well in hotels? And when I’d wake I’d go for a swim in the ocean to perk myself up. Indulgence, remember? Positano was no different than Rome. I bought my sister a pair of sandals there. Kind of like the ones I saw for my mom, but a bit more funky and youthful. I liked them so much that I bought a pair for myself in a different color. At one point, I toyed with the idea of keeping both for myself. My husband convinced me it wasn’t right.
And then there was the cannoli gelato we had. Wow, was that good. That’s more my dad than anyone in my family. Although, I suppose my mom would have tried some from his cone. Perhaps she would have gotten her own then? No, she probably would have stuck to sorbet or plain chocolate. That’s neither here nor there.
Even the plane ride home was pleasant. We had a row to ourselves and drank lots of Santal, this blood orange drink we don’t have in America. We looked at our pictures on my camera and “ooh-ed” and ahh-ed” like a cliché couple.
It was a good trip. The best one I’ve ever taken. I showed my family photos and gave them gifts the night of our return. I told them stories and used phrases like, “You really just have to go there.” I was tired, though. Jet-lagged and partied out. At nine o’clock I decided to turn in. After all, it was three o’clock in Italy.
It was nice to be home, nice to have my own bed. I think I fell asleep the instant my head hit the pillow that night. And for the first time in weeks, my sleep was deep, still and dreamless.
© Nicole Fabian September 2010
nicolefabian at gmail.com