Monday, October 17, 2011

But it's nearly lunch time in Rome


I thought I was really beating back this whole jet lag thing (been home more than 24 hours now), but then I decided to take a quick Sunday afternoon power nap. So now I'm up, quite refreshed.

Ready to start my Monday.

It is 3 a.m.

I'm not really sure how Jake kept the kids quiet all evening, but it appears he did.

When I first awoke, I tried to catch up on two weeks worth of what my friends did on Facebook, hoping it would make me sleepy (didn't, you all are very interesting), checking my email to make sure tomorrow isn't picture day (it isn't), finishing a book (The Language of Flowers, quite good), started a new one (super weird, became bored), went to the toilet, then finally tip-toed down the dark hallway, praying my bare foot didn't find an unsuspecting scorpion (already had a near miss in the master bathroom last night), and booted up the old Mac. I'm also pretty hungry. I might need a snack.

Italy was really super great. We saw all kinds of stuff: big stuff, old stuff, Churchy stuff, naked stuff, tasty stuff: even most of the small museums I had on my secret nerdy-history-major-itinerary.  It was pretty easy. I'd just be like: Oh, what luck! We just happen to be staying three doors down from this restored medieval house (that I've been checking out on the internet for like three months). We should stop in on our way to lunch. We visited the Forum/Palatine Hill/Coliseum/Mamertine Prison, Vatican/Sistine Chapel/St. Peter's, Pompeii, pizza in Naples; Doge's Palace, shopping at Rialto, Ca' Rezzonico, Jewish Ghetto in Venice (I might have accidentally slept in and missed St. Mark's); Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Davanzati (the restored medieval home), Pitti Palace, Medici Crypts, Duomo, Accademia to see David in Florence; wandered around Umbrian hill town (Orvieto); headed back to Rome to tour Christian Catacombs and Capucchin Crypt.  There were too many Churches, pizzas, and ice cream to name individually.

But it is funny. It turns out that when you give birth to five children, and then leave them to go to a different continent, you begin to miss them. This process takes 9 days, if you are having a really good time. Less, if it is raining or you are a better mother than I am.

On the 10th day, Jake texted me a photo of Joey, sitting in his high chair wearing only his diaper, lovingly clutching his new Italian Fiat police car to his chest (remember, Jake left from Venice, while I went on to Florence. He had a class to teach and a business to run). Joe's rheumy, unblinking blue eyes (it was a photograph, you'll remember) told me that he had come to terms with his abandonment, had been through all the levels of grief, and knew that lots of motherless children go on to lead productive lives. It seemed like, had his limited vocabulary allowed,  he might have started singing Annie songs.  Tomorrow, Maybe, or It's a Hard Knock Life, but probably not the one one from the movie where Miss Hannigan comes on to Daddy Warbucks. That one doesn't seem appropriate for 18-month-olds. So then I started crying right in front of the leather goods salesman I was dickering with in the covered market on the Via Porta Rossa.

I showed the leather guy the photo, to explain my tears. He nodded in empathy. But when my Mom mentioned that I had four other kids, back at the ranch, the guy checked to make sure there wasn't language confusion, then proceeded to look at me in the same way I look at Michelle Duggar. It didn't help that my mom motioned to my sister's midsection and smiled: number eight!

Which leads me to the first in the series I will call: "weird stuff I noticed in Italy, which may or may not be true, because I was only there 12 days, only talked to a few people, and only speak Italian gelato flavors." (I also know the important universal sign language for  "waffle cone, large.")

So the first weird thing is that people are flabbergasted by big families. Like they've never seen or heard of one. I mean, fine. This is Europe. These are cities. I get it. But also, aren't these people Catholic? Or lapsed Catholics? Or related to some Catholics? Cuz I went in about 40 Churches, on like every corner like 7-11s, and all of them were Catholic (except for the three synagogues we visited in Venice.) I fully expect to be a freak in England, France and the Netherlands, but
not Italy.  I was so confused, I just googled it. Turns our I was right. Italy's birth rate in 1994 was the second lowest in the Western World, at 1.23 children per woman. Apparently the government is worried there won't be enough young workers to support the aging population in just a few years, and is paying cash bonuses to mothers. And the Pope? He isn't thrilled, either.

Well, enough of that.

So, in my determination to pack light, I brought only a carry-on sized backpack and a small purse (large enough only for lip balm, sunglasses, Rick Steves, and a few euros). We did laundry once. The only thing I regret leaving home? My real camera. I'm not much of a photographer, but still. I wanted it from day 1. The iphone camera just didn't cut it. (Also, I wish I'd brought a  jacket with long sleeves. At night, in Venice, my forearms grew chilled.)

Speaking of Rick Steves. He was in Italy with us, and we almost saw him, but didn't. He was in the Piazza Navona, at midnight, only a little bit drunk and filming stuff, either the same night or the night before we were. So we ate the tartufo gelato he recommended at Tre Scalini, approximately 22:00, then headed off toward the Pantheon on his Night Walk Across Rome, like the good Rickites we are. Unfortunately, this put us at the Spanish Steps at midnight, listening to some Italian kid playing acoustic 90s hits on his guitar (very well, I might add), holding hands, kissing, and chatting about the house where Keats died. Little did we know that meanwhile, Rick had got his buzz on and was out on the town with his cell phone video camera, back over by the ice cream and the Four Rivers Fountain (full of marble men with surprisingly muscular buttocks).

So anyhow, maybe sometime when it is light outside and I don't have to risk being stung by creepy lobster insects to get back to my room, I will get the (low-quality) photos off my phone and share a few with you.

Now I will maybe go make my kids some waffles. Since I'm up. I will try not to think about the salami and cheese panini (just off the Piazza Signorina) and fresh strawberry sorbet (from that spot next to the Ponte Vecchio) that somebody is eating for lunch, nine hours ahead but right this minute.