‘I want to remember how good this feels,’ I said to myself out loud, wading into the sea with my arms splashing clear blue water up the skies, laughing, finding myself in the most exquisite of states: contentedness. ‘This. This is the feeling I’ve been chasing.’
I let out a silent prayer of thanks, turning my face up to the low summer sun that was beginning its evening hiding practice behind the terracotta houses of the coast.
I was in Sicily, drunk on a little too much sun and a whole lotta love. My housemates, the ones I live with in London, had flown out to pass my final days in Italy with me, and together we’d taken Palermo by storm. From 4 a.m. piazza drinking and flirting with the locals, to trips to Europe’s largest theatre to see beautiful ballet and glimpse a piece of history; from backstreet markets and seaside seafood restaurants to prosecco by the bottle and pasta by the greedy forkful, I was suddenly sharing a slice of the country that made me with two of the people who’d made me. Two parts of what has mostly been kept very separate indeed – my “London Life” and my “Italy life” -- were colliding in a magnificent, beautiful way, and in many senses that’s what my two months away has done for me. It has brought together parts of a puzzle to make them a whole picture. My personal history met my current reality; the Laura who wears a backpack and no watch has met with the Laura who keeps a strict schedule and worries about bedtime and If This Is The Right Career Move and What It All Means.
It was the same when my parents came out to Sardinia – finally, after five or six years of flitting off to Italy every summer to collect pieces of myself, I was able to share my Italian experience with my family, to make an Italian memory together. As I caught up with ghosts from my Italian past through my month in Rome (a whole other blog post altogether, and one I’m not quite ready to write -- not yet) I realised the same thing: somehow, it was all coming together. Very slowly indeed I was reconciling parts of my personality to themselves.
These two months have been so very special.
I think, above all, I have felt loved. And when one feels loved, it’s impossible not to want to reach for the stars. In Milan, I got days with a dearest American friend, her incredible Italian boyfriend, Alex, and her wonderful sister. Alex’s family welcomed me as one of their own, and I had family dinners and friendly lunches, hours upon hours of time around a table where I ate, and I drank, and together we were, in a mix of English colloquialisms and U.S. dialect and broken Italian, together. I got to meet up with two friends – friends from separate parts of my Italian travels, who know each other and over time have fallen in love. For one glorious afternoon I was witness to two people who I have watched grow up, grow into their futures, and now, in their very adult selves, are beginning a life together.
In Sardinia I had time alone, enforced hours to get comfortable with my own company. Mama Janie and Dad and my baby brother arrived, and we played cards and drove across the country and explored and fell out and made up and ate, ate, ate.
And then to Rome I went, a city with so much loaded emotion for me. I taught during my time there, working as part of a team that knew when to say thank you for the hard work, when to order another beer, when to laugh and when to say “Hey, you know what, you take a break – I got this.” I slept maybe five hours a night. I watched a lot of football. I drank and snuggled and confessed and laughed. Oh sister, how I laughed.
By the time my housemates arrived in Sicily, at midnight and still willing to go drink beer in the bar next door, so much had happened. A lifetime had passed. And they wanted to know about it all.
I don’t think I’m saying that this time has changed me. I think I’m simply marvelling at the way that so many faces of my history – American friends and Roman colleagues, Italian memories and London loves, my own family and that of other, incredible people – it’s all been there, and I’ve been the same person throughout, and it’s made me feel that finally, maybe, I don’t know, I’m comfortable with myself. With who I am and what’s important to me and who I want to share that with.
And that seems pretty huge.