Italy shuts down in August. Restaurants, businesses and at least half the shops are completely out for the count. Of course, a number of establishments must remain open due to the influx of tourists. But for the locals- Rome is, for all intents and purposes, closed. “When in Rome,” I try my best to do as the Romans do. And when “out of Rome,” I did as the Romans do as well.
The first half of the month was spent in Sardegna- in one of the most delightful and lavish hotels I have ever seen- hobnobbing with the rich and richer (and their Russian girlfriends). It was the vacation of a lifetime- shared with some of my best friends and loved ones, reminding me daily that life really is about the company we keep. Nearly two weeks were spent overindulging in excessive buffets, wakeboarding amongst yachts and massive seaside villas, shopping on private beaches and attending glittering parties and events while our eyes shimmered from the fine champagne running through our veins. (photos to come shortly).
The second half of the month, as I mentioned, was in the United States. I landed in Chicago, spending five days catching up with my sister who just moved to the city and attending the wedding festivities of one of my closest friends. I met Marissa seven years ago. We were both fresh out of college and decided to make a go of teaching English abroad. After an intensive TEFL course, Marissa and I were sent off to Lodi, a small town just outside of Milan. In truth, I lasted about three months as a teacher (some things just aren’t for me) and then bailed, leaving Marissa to brave the fog and Northern Italian winter alone.
Marissa eventually forgave me and since then, we have kept in touch- keeping one another appraised throughout the years and miles that separate us. During the wedding weekend, we had the chance to revisit our ancient histories and laugh about our long-ago woes. I was reminded of all that I have to be thankful for- including: losing the freshman 15, finally speaking fluent Italian and for living, yet again, in my favorite country in the world. Most of all- I am thankful for people like Marissa who I have met by chance across one ocean or another- and having forged friendships that withstand the tests of time. Since the Lodi days, Marissa and I have each separately been around the world a number of times. We have both fallen in and out of love on a number of occasions, moved cities again and again, and somewhere in there- we managed to get masters degrees. The best news of the weekend came when Marissa told me that she and Jeremy will be moving to Rome next year- totally by chance- due to Jeremy’s career in the government. It’s a big world- and anyone who says differently has yet to see it- but it is the people in it that make it smaller.
After Chicago, I sauntered (rather- took a train) over to Michigan and spent a week with my family in their summer home, enjoying nightly sunsets over the lake, boatrides, lazy days on the beach and an abundance of good old american food.
Back in Italy- the first week of September was relatively slow. As the Romans were unhurriedly filtering into the city- opening their shops, organizing their schedules, and arranging their plans- I was making deals with myself. September, as opposed to January- is the beginning of a new year. It's a time to create improvements- renew hope and fulfill agreements and promises- or at least try to.
This year, it just so happened that my first week back in Rome coincided with Rosh Hashanah…the Jewish New Year. Although I didn't attend synagogue- and I didn't blow the Shofar- I quietly celebrated at home on my own, making lists of all I plan to accomplish this year. I ate a modest lunch of apples and honey- as my days in Hebrew school taught me years ago, to signify a sweet new year. I thought about my family- and what growing up amongst them has instilled in me. I didn't pray- because I don't pray. But I did smile to myself thinking about my mother’s improvised holiday dinners- and being surrounded by the people who brought unconditional love amongst other blessings into our home- creating the childhood that will stay with me forever…even though that particular version of my family is long gone, as well as many of the people I loved so dearly in it.
So to all my family, friends and readers, I would like to wish you: Shana Tova- (שנה טובה)- a sweet new year to all. xx