We had spent the day exploring the most beautiful sites I'd ever seen. Museum after museum, monument after monument, we looked up and around in awe of all the magic we were witnessing; Boticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo- Geniuses, and to be even close to their creations, so close to the things they touched, the air they breathed...just magic. My chic leather sandals I bought specifically for this trip make me feel as Italian as I can feel; an American mutt with zero Italian blood, and with my designer sunglasses and bag I bought here, I feel fully integrated into this foreign, beautiful world....And my husband; Well, he is ever the model of GQ perfection. We laugh heartily at passionate, hands-speaking Italians as they fawn over our perfectly behaved and equally as well-coifed children. Luca giggles as he's passed from Italian mama to Italian mama, and Beckham takes up a game of hybrid soccer/catch with a group of children by the fountain, as we sip limoncello, lick gelato, and repeat over and over until we fall into a pile of luxurious Italian linens at the end of a long, fulfilling day, exhausted and energized all at once.
Bahaha. Kidding. SO, so kidding.
Yes, I had big dreams of this Italian escape. Truth be told, it had been my 1/4 Italian husband's dream to travel here, and I wanted desperately to make it come true. I wanted desperately to prove how capable we were, how completely we would be able to break the stereotype of overwhelmed 30-somethings with kids who lost their mojo to see the world in exchange for car pools and backyard barbecues.
Now, I know the secret: It's not that's anyone's lost their mojo. They just are in better touch with reality than we are, have been, or may ever be.
The reality is: We have walked by several beautiful places, sites and museums. With the exception of The Vatican, we have unsuccessfully maneuvered every.single.one. My chic leather sandals are less "chic" and more "practical", and I feel like the most obvious American in these cities with my blonde hair, large stature, and more-obvious-than-I-thought-it-would-be-scaredy-cat money belt. 110% of the time, I am sweating. And not, like, shiny sweating. Like, pouring down my face, forming a pool at my cleavage, soaking through my shirt sweat. Not because it's necessarily unreasonably hot, but because we're walking more than usual, climbing 6 zillion steps, toting 2 rather-unwilling (or over-willing) children, acting as pack mules, and finding little relief when we stop to eat in air conditioned restaurants, where our youngest child- who is typically the world's most agreeable baby- screams bloody murder, soliciting stares and sighs from literally every human within a 20 foot radius. No Italian mamas take him while I eat. No Italian children invite Beckham to play (there are barely any anywhere it seems?). The limoncello is delicious, but is used as much as elixir as it is an experience, and the gelato licking is almost always overwhelmed by the "gelato supervision" of a 6 year old who is quickly unraveling via a dark chocolate sugar high, while simultaneously getting gelato all over all the things. At the end of the day, we put our children to sleep in the living room, which has the only exterior door, and we become hostages in our bedroom, with spotty internet and no TV, with several hours to kill, both of us- as in love, if not more than, any couple I've ever known- so exhausted and weary we can barely form words to talk to one another.
Ok, so this isn't all day every day, either and we've had some absolute magic on this trip. The entirety of our time on Capri was brilliant, and as amazing and happy as it looked on Instagram. The Vatican and Sistine Chapel were awe-inspiring. If we had to be held hostage anywhere, our place in Florence is divine, and even if all we do is get to look at the city without making it to any of the restaurants, museums or places on our wish list, it's a city worth being in- stunningly beautiful, far less frantic than Rome, but just so...indescribable in its feeling. I know how lucky I am to be here, and to have had this time. But I'm sad that it wasn't/isn't perfect for Shaun. I'm sad we didn't get whatever movie I imagined in my head; the dancing under the moonlight in the Piazza, the biking (for him) through the Tuscan hills, the wine tasting, the "Walk in the Clouds" through vineyards, the gondola rides, the hikes, the swims....
It's hit me many times, but never more than tonight, Saturday. We're staying in the most lovely Villa about 10 minutes into the foothills of Florence, with breathtaking views of the Duomo and the rest of the city. Our host, Vivi, is the most kind, generous 75 year old woman, with her children and grandchildren living here, among the 4 guest suites she has on her Tuscan Villa estate, complete with gardens and a lovely pool. We went out to the pool after an afternoon of walking around the smaller town we're near- San Dominico- and from a couple villas over, I heard laughter and chatting...very obviously a family having a dinner party. And I realized, in the middle of this dream-like place I've fantasized about over and over, that I already HAVE my dreams come true. And they have nothing to do with limoncello and vineyards. Nothing to do with being put together, or perfectly behaved children. My dreams fulfilled are about my family- my big, loud, precious family that, especially in the last couple years, I've come to understand make my life. I thought about how, if we were on the Cape tonight, we would likely be at Silvamar, or my cousin Erin's house, or our own, barbecuing grocery store burgers and making a salad. The several children- Erin's, mine, my niece Alex's, and whoever else happened to show up, would be out of control, no doubt, circling the living room hopped up on sugar, or just one another. Someone would probably get hurt, or yelled at, or ignored. But we would all be happy, together, and....full.
It made me think about people we've lost this week. People who seem to have had it all. And I wonder if they had a Silvamar. Not that that could have saved them, or not, but I've realized, sometimes there's nothing more challenging and lonely than striving for the instagram-perfect experiences, when, in actuality, it's the mess of every day that makes you collapse at the end of the day fulfilled, exhausted and energized all at the same time.
This trip has been messy, but I feel like Shaun and I have gotten a Ph D in parent traveling with two young kids internationally. Here are the lessons I've learned. For my future reference, if nothing else:
Tomorrow, we try and see the Uffizi. Fingers crossed for minimal meltdowns. If we accomplish only that, we win.
Monday, we see Shaun's dad's exhibit at a local museum here in Florence. If we accomplish only that, we win.
I'm glad for this time I've had learning myself, and my boys and my men in a new light. I cannot wait to be home. I think the next time we adventure like this it will be when our youngest is 8-9. And that's ok. I'm ready for some nesting. I'm ready for dinners at Silvamar. I'm ready for family, and friends, and ice cream, and boats, and beaches, and every day, and love, and time alone, and quiet, and familiarity....because, while those may not be Michelangelo's or Boticelli's masterpieces, those are mine.
I'm a mama, first and foremost, to 2 beautiful boys (3, if you count the furry one).