I know they say that "You can't go home..."
But we did. The girls and I managed to get away from camp for an overnight, taking the train (well, first a bus, then another bus, then the train...) to visit the family I lived with in 1993.
It was FENOMENALE! (Not too hard to understand some of those cognates in Italian, 'eh? Easier than when I write in Russian!)
Chris and I went back to visit them in 1995, then we went back again when Katya was eleven-months-old in August of 2001... But a lot had certainly happened in the past eight years.
They had never met Natalia, and Katya hadn't even been able to walk during that last trip! (I should add, however, that she ate her first "gelato" while at their house, strawberry, I think...)
I thought the girls would be rather shy, but I couldn't have been more wrong. From the second Amelia met us a the train station, they treated her like the honorary "nonna" (grandmother) she is and jabbered away non-stop.
Katya and Natalia instantly trusted and loved both Amelia and Giuseppe. Their hugs and affection for these people I love so much, too, were joyous to watch! Amelia and Giuseppe were equally touched...
Amelia gave the girls the prettiest ivory beaded necklaces that they love. She gave me the neatest silver and mother-of-pearl bracelet that is SO ME, too. She used to have her own shop where she specialized in a variety of antiques, including jewelry. I love her taste!
Giuseppe, my host father, was an admiral in the Italian navy and the family spent two years living in Virginia in the late '70s when he was the naval attaché at the Italian Embassy in Washington. Their sons attended the local public school and the whole family jumped right into a total-immersion experience in American culture and English.
That's probably why we "clicked" so quickly when I lived with them... We hardly ever spoke English (they knew how important it was for me to improve my Italian), but they "got" where I was from. We talked and talked and laughed and laughed...
I felt completely at home living with them, absolutely loved and accepted and not at all like a paying boarder. They felt the same way, too... The university's arrangement seemed like a technicality and they wanted me to stay after our program ended to join them on the family ski vacation in Cortina.
In any case, while driving down those winding roads on the way to their house, I could feel the anticipation building inside me... When we then made our way up the path to their house, slowly passing the woods, olive trees and long rows of grapevines in the vineyard, I wanted to open up every pore in my body to suck in the smell, sights, and experience...
When we then opened the doors to the house, and made our way to "our room," I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Everything still smelled the same... That blend of wood, antiques, fresh breezes, clean linens, dog fur, fresh and dried flowers, homemade wine, Amelia's perfume, whatever had been cooking... I can't describe it. It's simply "home."
Lucky and Tyson, the wolf-like pups rescued from a dumpster.
I had a similar visual reaction... Everything was as I had loved it, with many beautiful changes in the meantime... It's a place that has been developed over time to meet the exact needs of their family: part cottage, part craft center, part impromptu hotel, part intimate café, part restaurant, part garden, part mechanic's atelier, part vineyard, part olive grove, part paradise for dogs lucky enough to find a home there, part horse pasture, part children's "Neverland" where they can run free and play, part terrace for peaceful reading while taking in the breathtaking view...
Their home is so "them". Their heart and soul have been poured into every nook and cranny of it! Giuseppe (an engineer) never remains still; he is always working the land, making repairs or creating a new project to carry out. The beautiful in-ground pool he built looks down on the land and is built against a stone wall. I enjoyed it even more knowing that the entire project was his doing from start to finish, with each detail reflecting his personal vision of how the family could relax there.
I picked out this hand-carved and painted nativity set for them in Moscow, knowing it would look great with the living and dining room colors. I'm so happy they love it! They placed it on top of their cabinet that is beneath the wall of bookcases.