For the past year, I have been sending out an email every Sunday evening to those traveling with us to Italy. The emails contained updates, reminders, fun facts, and cultural information. This past Sunday was the last email because, this Wednesday, we're off.
This is our last Sunday email. When Laura and I introduced the itinerary for the 2019 Girls’ Trip to Italy at that very first information session last September, it was exciting to witness the enthusiasm from those who traveled with us in 2015, as well as those who considered joining us for this trip. You asked questions, we provided answers, and by the end of that afternoon I had completely lost my voice. Then, we waited to see who would sign up, and it wasn’t long before one at a time, or in pairs, you did.
It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago we embarked on this journey, one which began before we’ve even left home. And if the last twelve months are any indication, the next two weeks are going to be great.
Last night at Mass, Timothy opened up my both my missalette and his to the correct readings, something he always does whenever he's not altar serving and can sit in the pew with us. It's a sweet gesture from a 6' 2" fifteen-year-old with scraped knees from playing soccer earlier that afternoon, and it transported me to a place of remembering when ...
Timothy is busy. He's dragging a stool, rummaging in the drawer for a cloth napkin, lining up kitchen chairs, and looking for a plastic cup. He asks me for a prayer card.
He announces that it is time for church and everyone has to come. RIGHT NOW.
He means business.
We sit in chairs before his makeshift altar. He lifts his hands and says please rise and sets mad at his older brother who is a little slow in responding. Vanilla wafers are the host. Water is the wine. He makes us say the Our Father and the Prayer to St. Francis. When his brother asks for another vanilla wafer, Timothy tells him to be quiet.
Then, he blesses us and tells us to go in peace.
And calls us back in ten minutes to do it all again.
Earlier this week I wrote a funny post about meeting some friends at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. We were supposed to meet in the front of the church, but we waited behind the church because we thought it was the front. Anyway, the day I wrote the post I had just dropped off my parents at the airport for their trip to Italy.
The very next day my parents and their friends were touring the same church I had written about, Santa Maria Maggiore, when YOU KNOW WHO walked in. Pope Francis, having just returned from a trip to Africa, made an unscheduled and unannounced visit to the church to place flowers at the altar of the Holy Mother.
For my 40th birthday, Joe planned a surprise trip to Rome, Italy for four nights and five days for me and my friend, Jill. Coincidentally, my parents were going to be there a few days before heading to Sicily, so we arranged to stay in the same hotel.
During the day my friend and I hit all the sights; in the evening, we joined my parents and their group of friends for whatever fun activity they had planned. Who knew that hanging out with a group of seniors could be so much fun? There was an opera singer on the bus, coins in a fountain, and a delicious dinner on the Appian Way complete with wandering minstrels and lots of napkin waving. We had a blast with them.
Joining my parents and their friends for dinner.
See? Napkin waving. That's my dad.
While we were in Rome we also wanted to take a couple of seminarians from our diocese (Fr. Pablo and Aaron Killips) out to dinner, so Fr. Pablo suggested we meet in front of the church, Santa Maria Maggiore, near the train station in the center of Rome.
My friend and I, along with my parents, arrived to the church at the appointed time. We sat on the steps and waited. No Fr. Pablo. No Aaron Killips. We double-checked Fr. Pablo's email with the instructions. Yes, we were at the right church. Yes, this was the correct time, except now it was half an hour later. We sat there until my mother had an epiphany.
"You know," she said very seriously. "I don't think this is the front of the church."
Here we are, waiting at the back of the church ...
which we thought was the front.
Laughing in the back, which we thought was the front.
OH. MY. GOSH. We had been sitting at the BACK of the church the entire time! We quickly ran to the front where we found the seminarians waiting for us. Needless to say, we felt very stupid but, in our defense, the back of the church looked like the front of a church! Even the seminarians agreed!
Still, we had a lovely dinner. At one point I shared with them with this epic family joke (as told by my Uncle Luciano who likes to tease my mother): "If Pontius Pilate, instead of giving people the choice between freeing Jesus or Barabbas had, instead, offered them Jesus or Massimilla, the crowd would have definitely chosen Jesus which would have altered the entire course of Christianity."
They really laughed.
Dinner with the seminarians.
We met them several times over the next couple of days--Aaron Killips took us all on a Scavi tour (the necropolis underneath St. Peter's Basilica and the actual tomb of St. Peter), after which he invited us to the rooftop of the Pontifical North American College for a wonderful photo opportunity; Fr. Pablo, the very next day, gave us a private tour of St. Peter's Basilica.
In the end, it was a great trip, largely due to the fact we met up with my parents AND were able to hang out with Fr. Pablo and Aaron who, I guess, liked us despite the fact we didn't know the back of the church from the front.
But I still say it looked like the front.
View of St. Peter's Basilica from the rooftop of the
"Mom, for literature class I need to bring in a photo that represents who I am as a person," said Timothy. "I was thinking a photo of our family in front of a church, maybe in Italy, to show how faith, family, tradition, and travel define me."
As a mother, sometimes (well, more times than I care to admit) I wonder if anything we do or say even registers with our sons. But then there are moments like these and just like that I know all will be well.
So together we went through photos, trying to find one that best conveyed one or more of his themes. It took a long time because we kept getting distracted. Is that what Nicholas looked like when he had braces? Why does Jonathan look like he's dancing? Which one of us was the fattest baby? In the end, he narrowed it down to these five.
Grandfather, father, son.
Gathering from near and far.
Following in their footsteps. Always.
A family tradition.
St. Joseph Celebration
In the end, he selected this photo because it conveyed everything with which he identified: Family (and friends), faith (Catholic), tradition (St. Joseph Feast Day), and travel (by celebrating our Italian heritage).
In 2010, two weeks before a family trip to Italy, a home in
our neighborhood was burglarized. Among the items stolen were passports.
Then, one week before that very same trip, there was an
airline strike in France (we were flying Air France) and volcanic ash from an active volcano in Iceland was causing flight disruptions, cancellations, and delays at all European airports. In fact, for a few days the volcanic
ash resulted in the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II.
And just to make things more interesting, a few days before
our trip I was on pins and needles waiting to see if anyone in our family would
be stricken with the stomach bug that was making its rounds among family,
neighbors, and friends.
The period leading up to a trip is a strange time, filled
with a range of emotions. You’re waiting, but in an active way. So you prep,
plan and pack, all while feeling a little overwhelmed (anxious?) because no matter
how much you meticulously see to every detail, there is also so much that is
out of your control.
Yes, it’s a strange time, but an exciting one.
Today, two weeks away from our Girls’ Trip to Italy, I am
again experiencing the array of emotions—excited (we're really going), hopeful
(for sunny days and cool temperatures), anxious (head cold or allergies?),
preoccupied (check this, confirm that).
Mostly though, I have an overwhelming
sense of gratitude, for all of these emotions are part of a wonderful whole.