It seems like every time I close my eyes and imagine Perugia, via Mazzini or our apartment, I can’t stop this awful ache from welling. The details are easy to picture, yet it’s so inaccessible now. It feels far, far away.
I had a good year, a great year; maybe the best year of my life. It felt purposeful, alive, delicious, challenging, melodic and stunningly gorgeous. I felt a lightness I haven’t felt in six years. I miss those feelings, but mostly, I just miss being surrounded by Italy.
It was a life-changing experience, and I was hell of lucky to have it.
Yet, truth be told, while I’d like to beam myself there for a couple hours every day, it’s not where I want to live with my family permanently. It’s not even where we want to live for another year. For the boys, the familiarity of friends and the freedom of a grassy back yard have rekindled their social lives and athletic interests. For Matt, the stimulation of work and the warm embrace of the English language have elevated him to the top of his game. We are here, to stay, by choice.
So now it’s time for the busy work of transition, or rather, integration: How to take all the richness of a year of art, tradition, and history along with that proud, food-oriented, family-centric, festive, passionate lifestyle and make it work here . . . in the suburbs of the East Side . . .
A couple ideas:
Clear cut the tangle of blackberry bushes at the end of the street and build a piazza where the local farmers could sell their grapes and cheeses and where a dapper barista could pull espresso for the neighbors (no caramel macchiatos). A church, too. I don’t really care what religion it is as long as there is a bell tower.
Offer Italian in the Bellevue public schools. While it’s practically useless in the Pacific Northwest, it’s beautiful. And there’s something to be said for speaking beautifully.
Throw annual medieval festivals in the neighborhood and hold raucous horse races with other neighborhoods.
Have all the working moms and dads come home for lunch and fill the streets with the aroma of garlic and tomatoes and the sound of pouring wine.
Decide on a neighborhood patron saint or some kind of folk hero with whom we can identify ourselves.
Honk our car horns more.
Transitions take time, and while we sort out the details of change, we count our blessings for the two most important aspects of Italian lifestyle going for us: This hill is full of awesome neighbors (talented, creative, very smart, etc.) and most importantly, we have a community fountain.