Sunday, July 31, 2011

Friends, Romans, Countrymen.

Fulvia owns and runs Casa Romana at Via Dei Mille 41 in Rome. She speaks excellent English and made our three nights at her place near the main train station very easy and pleasant.

She loves Rome and though she has lived in New York and has a soft spot for Bombay (!) she comes home to the Eternal City. She is a Roman through and through and likes to share her city with we strangers.

Next we meet Therese who we last met in my garden on Ramrod Key planting assiduously and making sure my greenery looked it's best. I need her back.

We picked her up at Pisa airport in Tuscany and drove her to Siena where she and my wife met two days catching up.

Therese started her Italian sojurn sharing lunch on the road, a place found at random, roadside and quite up to snuff as are most found eateries in Italy.

These people in the picture below are Giovanni's parents 86 and 81 years of age, friends of my long dead mother, still able to get about on their own and they drive up to their country home for the hot summer months.

Mellito is the eldest of three brothers and sole survivor ironically enough, a former cardiologist, a car enthusiast and the last repository of the distant memories of my grandfather...

...and my mother's

...daily lives in the village. She's the seated one gesturing vivaciously at a family picnic in the 1960's. She used to embarrass me at my prim English boarding school by being too Italian and loud and glamorous for the dull gray life I lived in-between her visits. I wish I could go back and change that.

Elisa reminds me of the queen of England and sometimes her bearing confirms perhaps that she and Elizabeth were separated at birth. After years of disapproving of my wastrel lifestyle she finally gave me the seal of her approval this trip thanks in large part to the steadying influence of my patient California wife keeping up with muttered translations from me and use of her knowledge of Spanish.

Rosella, Giovanni's cousin was once intended for me as a wife to unite the two largest families in town. It seems inconceivable that a homebody like her could have put up with a wanderer like me. I am not sure how she feels about her narrow escape but I am certain a great deal of misery was spared all concerned when I ran away, for reasons totally unrelated to her.

The paunchy middle aged man in the blue shirt was my childhood companion on these mountains, a wiry young country lad who was required by his stern father, the frail old man in the recliner, to look after the family's herd of sheep. I used to hang with him and we would climb trees, make slingshots and chase lizards to wile away the long summer days. Fausto's son has been out of work for a year with no prospects but as he waits for retirement in four years the shepherd turned builder has made his home energy self sufficient and he and his wife are cultivating their own food. my sons future is in our land not other people's promises he says.

Fausto and I still have a few things in common including our history, and a rather dim view of the future economic outlook.

My mother's first cousin still lives in her apartment in Terni, she didn't recognize me when I dropped in for a visit after thirty years away.

She isn't nearly as severe as she looks though she is rather prim and formal and was another of those in the chorus of my young life who disapproved of my juvenile lack of maturity and focus. She's over it now. The passing of time has that effect I've noticed.

Away from the home front, and the woods and trails of my old haunts we dropped in again on our favorite pottery makers in Deruta. When I told my wife I used to live forty minutes from some of the most famous pottery in Italy she had to check it out. She criss-crossed the town observing the designs and settled on the Marcucci family as her favorite.

Every visit we stop by and pick up something to add to our collection of daily use dishes. Marcucci is very keen to know that his designs are in use every day and not kept in display cases.

The old man is training the next generation to appreciate his passion for the particular clay mined in Deruta and fired into patterns that he selects from medieval texts and traditions. Made and painted by hand is their motto. This visit we got a traditional cruet holder and a scalloped dish that she will use for her famous appetizers.

Stefano and I never did see much of each other as kids but in later years we hung out a lot together and he among all the people I knew, loved to travel. He runs his own pest control company and sells his patented rat poisons across Europe.

He visited me in California and Florida seen here at the head of the "table" on my boat with myself and my then girlfriend presumably in Ft Myers. A few years ago!

From California we met Corda and Jack the artists who moved into our village 40 years ago leading what was to become decades later an avalanche of English speaking invaders who preferred the backwaters of Umbria to the better known villages of Chianti-shire in Tuscany.

It was these two who introduced me to their home in Santa Cruz and who unwittingly gave me a target to aim for when I decided to leave Europe permanently.

That was where I landed, student visa in hand, and where I married the first time and settled, much to my own surprise. They still live in the same house in Umbria (and Santa Cruz) after all these years. Not surprising really:

And me? I have changed a bit over the years. Now:

Aged two, my sisters tell me, in our father's garden in England:

Age 15, I have to confess I failed to recognize myself in this picture from the early 1970's in Italy about the time my mother died.

Years later in Santa Cruz after I took to the water to revolt against my land locked former life in Umbria.

It's a cliche but life passes in a hurry and making the most of each day has never seemed so important.

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1 comment:

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

It is also good to make peace with the ghosts of the past. When we leave a place, passage of time tends to cease, in our minds, at least.

You've seen the ghosts of the past through the lens of the present - and the winds of time have softened the edges of memories for all.

I suspect many of these ghosts secretly admire the tapestry of your life.