Do you believe in reincarnation? Are there places you’ve been where you just feel you belong (or belonged)? I’m certain that in one of my past lives I lived in Italy.
When I graduated from college, I backpacked through Europe, and from the moment I set foot in Italy, it felt like home. I fell head over heels for the language, the culture, the landscape, and the fabulous footwear. (And I confess I was also smitten with a swarthy Roman (not my husband) who sold souvenirs near the Coliseum.)
That summer, I came home with lots and lots and lots of souvenirs (hah!) and a yearning for all things Italian (including the Roman). New Jersey seemed unreal. I felt foreign in my own country. So, I decided I had to go back to Italy, study the language and find out if the Roman was “the one”. Six months later, I returned to the States, reasonably fluent and still in-love with all things Italian (except for the Roman).
Then, a couple years later in New York, I met this wonderful Italian man from Milan and married him, and now, with our kids in tow, we make our annual summer journey to my “homeland”.
I love speaking Italian, and when I was studying in Rome, I was pretty good. Not fluent but not shabby. If you’ve ever heard people speaking Italian, you know the language races along like a raft in white water rapids. You’ve got to jump in when you see a clearing, or you miss your chance to speak at all. When my Italian was in working order, this wasn’t a problem. Now, I’m a little rusty, and no one’s patiently waiting for me to dredge up the right words. As a result, my Italian consists of me throwing out a noun or a verb (in its infinitive) to get my point across. For example, my husband’s friend will ask, “How is your singing going?” At which point, I have about 10 seconds to answer. So I yell out “Oh, music good! It goes! To sing! Many concerts! Life! Me!” And that’s pretty much my contribution to the conversation.
But I try. Still I try. Sometimes, I’ll say a word that is similar to the right word, but not the right word. We were visiting friends who have a small white dog. This dog was named “Spot” because (surprise!) it had a small brown spot on its back. I thought I knew the word for “spot”…it started with an “m” and had an “eeah” sound at the end. In Italian, the word for “spot” is “macchia”. But instead, I thought it was “minchia” which is actually a slang term for the male reproductive organ. (For purposes of propriety, let’s just call it a “Johnson”.) So (speaking in the high voice I reserve for animals and babies), I say, “Hi Johnson! Sweet little Johnson! Come here, let me pet you, Johnson.” Our friends were laughing, and I was clueless, thinking how wonderfully I was using the dog’s name in three full sentences.
Today is my last day in this lovely country that I call my own. But I’m looking forward to heading back to Boston because “Music good! It goes! To sing! Many concerts! Life! Me!”. Hope to see you at one of my shows!