Tag Archives: Parenting

Breakfast in Milan

Green tea and almond cake
two cappuccinos and a cream-filled croissant
ordered in broken Italian
among the bright white cosmetic lights
of the Milan airport

Breakfast before our flight back home

Your happy-go-lucky smile
trumping my usual pre-flight nerves
I ordered you another brioche
and they understood.

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A Space for Travel

Cleaning my kitchen back in Florida I am reminded why I love traveling so. Even in the nicest of destinations you are stripped away from your comfort zone. And your routine, whether mundane or solid, is put on hold.

I just got back from 16 days in Italy, accompanied by my 13-year-old son, who had never been out of the eastern U.S. This was my third time to Italy, staying with the same beautiful and gracious people I met there so many years ago. Three different trips, all unique. Each during a different phase in my life.

It’s quiet here now at my desk. The usual Florida summer humidity holding steadily outside. The weeds in the cracks of the lanai having grown a foot in my absence. There is laundry to be done, floors to mop, bills to pay. There is work to go back to, alarms to set, exhaustion looming in the distance. Although I helped out in my Italian host’s kitchen (they cooked, I cleaned) it did not feel like a chore. Their lack of air conditioning use drove me insane a few times but my open window was a gateway to sounds I do not usually hear. The cooing of pigeons, lively conversations in Italian, the undeviating church bell song– became welcome melodies to my late nights and early mornings.

The back of the row of flats and the open window which carried sounds joyously.

And those early mornings. Determined not to come back with extra wobble, I jogged with every sunrise. In the peace of dawn a little world was at play– feral kitties hiding in the long grasses on the edge of fields of lavender and tomatoes. Hefty black and white magpies sitting stately on top of hay bales. Jackrabbits as big as raccoons scurrying across the skinny roads and farm landscape.

Good morning sunrise. 

The meals we shared will forever be etched in my memory, both the company and the food itself. Believe me, I have a photo of every dish I ate! There was the torta fritta, an appetizer of lightly fried pockets of dough wrapped with the freshest prosciutto, so good all our Italian friends tried to either duplicate it or find it at various restaurants and markets. There was the pasta of course, not really my favorite because it blows up my belly, but the way they cooked it with various fresh sauces, like real carbonara with egg, and spinach and pumpkin ravioli, melted in my mouth. I had to refrain from gulping my wine and coffee as the Italians are sippers. Plus you can’t really gulp espresso, not if you want any dignity.

My son finally experienced what the fuss was all about regarding real Italian pizza. He even requested it as our last meal there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him finish a plate of food like that. And the few desserts we did have were totally worth the carbs—lemon, rich chocolate and tangy yogurt gelato, a pastry called a Susanna with ricotta cheese and dark chocolate surrounded by a biscotti type crust, a pistachio cream-filled flaky croissant.

Oh, Susanna!

Spaghetti Carbonara accompanied by Lambrusco

Fresh local yogurt from the happiest cows on the planet.

Two of my very favorite meals happened at restaurants we hiked to, enjoying the views and meaningful conversations and laughs along the way. And ah yes, the views! Everywhere my eye rested during those sixteen days there was something amazing to see. Medieval castles dotting the hillsides, Romanesque paintings on cathedral ceilings, vineyards and fields of wild flowers for miles, and white, rugged mountaintops against a clear-blue sky.

The baptisery in Parma

Lavendar and vineyards 

Castello di Torrechiara

Cremona Cathedral 

Pozza di Fossa and the Dolomiti

Possibly our favorite part of the trip occurred in a little town called Sesta, which really deserves its own story here. It’s the tiniest coolest town I’ve ever been. Nestled in a hillside surrounded by the mountains there are only 12 full time residents. Winding cobblestone streets take you past their mortared walls, which are elegantly and eerily marked with various paintings, some chipping away from weather and time. An old fountain rests at the edge of the houses, flowing forth cold, fresh drinkable mountain water. At night the paintings are softly illuminated and the neighborhood children play hide and seek among the shadows. I sat on a wooden chair and watched them as my Italian host’s father tried to communicate with me in broken English. We only stayed there for a night but that town will always be with us. Neither of us wanted to leave it behind.

Nighttime in Sesta.


Traveling, being away from home and away from all the things you think you have control over, is a lesson in self-reflection. There are things you come to both revere and loath about yourself and/or surroundings, as well as learn about yourself and other people, cultures, places. I appreciate American coffee and air conditioning and strangers who smile and wave. I revel in my goofiness, independence, and sense of adventure. I do not appreciate the loneliness I sometimes feel when the house is quiet and empty. Or the loud suburban noises reminding me of consumption and perfectionism and competition.

I do love my own neighborhood and my comfortable living space and my sometimes mundane yet solid routine. But I am mourning the flat and mountain houses back in Italy where my son and I could casually hang in that small space together without distractions or the pressing of time. Lazy moments reading. Dinner being cooked for us. Spontaneous games of Frisbee. Conversations with old friends making new memories. The promise of another day of adventure and enrichment and relaxation and effortless bonding. We must go back. Soon. And until then make time for such moments within the realm of our working days and fleeting weekends.

I am ever grateful for the space in time and circumstance in which we have to travel. Whether across the globe or down the road, everyone should have that space, too.

Take the trip, breathe it in. 

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The Fallen Leaves (the passing of time)

Trudging knee-high in leaves
discarded shelter now food for soil

The passing of time long arduous
and fleeting all at once

We wish for high winds
to carry all away

And when they do come
blow our hearts out of our chests

Maddening deafness except
the blind chatter of our minds

and the crunch swish crunch
of fallen foliage at our feet

Trek on still
with our eyes set forward

Lest we cackle like mad men
in the unforgiving forest of
despondency.

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A Kind of Kindling

All relationships need kindling

It’s too easy to become wrapped up
in the monotony of daily life
and think things will fix themselves
with the drying of the plastic dishes on the counter

But sometimes gotta get out of the kitchen
go to a place where there are no dishes to wash
no routines to keep
a different perspective and air to breathe

We played in the field after dinner
and it was not planned
I saw you smile in the dunes
and make jokes while pedaling the surrey

It wasn’t you and I arguing
or me wishing you were 8 again

We were just ourselves
and there was no animosity
or harsh words or sadness

There are new memories on the beach now
a twinkle in my eye when I look southward
and see the city where we spent a weekend

A much-needed weekend
spontaneous and free

The you and me that always has been
and hopefully always will be.

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A Rare Cold Day

It’s a rare cold day here
one meant for staying close in
and keeping the biting breeze out
Or perhaps to face the bite
let it rattle your bones for a bit
then come inside and take a warm sip

There’s tea on the stove
coffee in the carafe
Sun is gleaming on the chilly
palm fronds outside
But my couch is empty
too many cups in the cupboard

January can be an icy stare
smoke-filled rooms with nowhere
to breathe
Resolutions already falling away
A need for connection
but the line is dead

Suit up and carry on
it’s just one more day
one rare cold day
But with the birds flight
south-wind, still
a struggle to let go within.

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The Summer of 12

Soaked in cold spring water
engulfed in it
I want to paddle against the current again

River rocks
you helped me walk over their slippery path

A mountain’s bald peak
grass as soft as cotton
No stress there

Can we go back
on days like these
where life has sucked out
all the marrow of zen
and time is on fast-forward

The summer of 12
the best in my life

You 12, me 42
But among those swaying pines
and silly laughter
I was the same as you

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Spirograph and Worn Antiques

I have been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. The one who is deceased, not the one who is alive. Granny is still dipping snuff and listening to country music in her ranch-style home. Nana is somewhere with that great spirit in the sky, perhaps noshing on walnuts and dancing to Glenn Miller.

But I have felt her presence lately. I’m not sure why she has decided to visit but I will welcome it nevertheless.

The other day I was sitting at the dining room table, a worn 1920’s set I inherited from Nana’s mother. For a moment I was ten again, or rather wished I was. I could hear echoes of my cousin’s laughter and smell the buttered toast Nana would broil for us every morning. I could see her spinning in the front room to the sound of the jazz album. I could feel the spongy firmness of the big eraser I used to delete scattered lines from my latest Spirograph design.

There was always something to do at Nana and Papa’s. Whether it was trudging and scavenging and playing among Papa’s junk yard or dancing to the music from the turn table and playing “Office” in the living room or being a guinea pig in one of my older cousin’s traps or home-made haunted houses in the basement.

Sometimes it feels like those times were a hundred years ago. But thank god I have those memories at least.

I love that my own son now plays around that worn antique set. Does his homework there. Builds Legos. Has chatty weeknight dinners with me there. I bought him a Spirograph set a while back. He didn’t quite take to it like I thought he would.

I think my Nana would be proud of me for the most part. Maybe that’s why she visits from time to time. Just to let me know.

And to remind me to keep dancing.

glenn miller dancing

 

 

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Filed under Yep I'm Becoming My Mother