I spent most of my summers growing up splitting my time between two towns in Italy. This is relatively equivalent to parents who send their kids to summer camp. Mine just happened to be a bit further away, although I can guarantee your summer camp probably had more people than my small town. That being said, it was the single experience that has changed my life the most.
And having Miriam here has been sort of surreal in the sense that, when I was 16 and wished that the half of my life that I lead in Italy could be lived here, I always imagined the two of us laying on my bed and looking through pictures and laughing at how ridiculous we (and our taste in boys) was.
And then last night we did.
We spent awhile going through pictures of summers in Calabria (our family is from a town about an hour outside Reggio Calabria) from 1998, 2001 and 2003. It was amazing, especially considering these pictures were stashed away in a flower-patterned box for years. Granted, we had awful haircuts and awful taste in clothes. There’s one picture from, I think—and sort of hope—1998 because then it would be slightly more excusable, where I’m wearing a white t-shirt, a calf-length pink and white patterned skirt with white and purple Puma sneakers. Together. Seriously. And I thought this was Cool.
But, I realized, particularly in 2001, how much fun we had. It was back when most of my Italian friends were 18 or slightly older and had just learned to drive or just gotten hold of their parents’ car for the summer. We would drive from our town in the mountains to the beach 10 minutes away and spend afternoons alternating between swimming and lying on the beach. We’d trade towels and lay all over each other. We were too tanned for our own good. And then, later, at night, we would make our way back down to the beach and do the same thing, minus the swimming and the sun. We’d make jokes and say things we shouldn’t say, and wear things we bought from the mercato because that’s what we saw everyone else wearing. But we didn’t care because we didn’t really realize any of it at the time. It was before broken hearts and before we had time to stay in one place for too long. It was like a movie with no real plot. And sure, it sounds sentimental, but it was.
Things there are different now. Everyone has moved out and on. Some of us talk, occasionally, some of us don’t. This summer, I was walking through the park where many of the pictures from 2001 were taken and there was no one there. The park that used to be filled with some 20 kids on any given night was scary-empty. I think it took awhile for this to feel like the past for me, but then one day, that’s what it was. And it was ok.