By Vicki Shelter, Lower School Teacher
As the taxi comfortably sped around the curvy roads with the mountains on one side and the Mediterranean Sea down on the other, the Talking Head’s lyric “Home is where I want to be,” kept drifting through my mind. I looked back at my mom and my sister nestled in the car. This was hopefully going to be a big moment for us.
At the last minute, my mom and my sister Marcy had decided to come and visit me while I was on my sabbatical. Italy is a very important place for us. When I was in middle school, my family lived here for two years while my father was on a corporate assignment. My dad was an Exxon executive who specialized in petroleum engineering. The reflective aspect of my sabbatical proposal was to visit my old home and we were about to arrive at our old house. I was really glad to have my mom and sister with me
The taxi driver pulled up to the gate. I jumped out and looked around. My sister was quickly at my side. We stared at the two buttons on the gate, I bravely pushed one. “Pronto!”, a common Italian greeting, came from the speaker. My sister and I looked at each other. “Buon Giorno”, I replied. In my broken Italian, I was trying to explain why I was ringing the bell when a woman appeared at the gate. Our taxi driver immediately tried to help us out with his broken English. It was clear after a few minutes that this scenario was going nowhere fast. I exhaled and my sister put her arm around me.
My mom quietly got out of the car and joined us. She said one word: “Manjani”. My mom didn’t speak much Italian. One word she did know was “Manjani”, the name of our long-ago landlord. It turned out to be the magic word. The woman pressed the other button at the gate and after a minute of fast talking, another woman joined us. She spoke English and “Manjani” was her maiden name. She quickly let us in. I grabbed my sister’s hand, and instinctively we ran down the long rocky walkway just like when we were kids. My sister stopped and we looked out at the beautiful scene before us. She exclaimed “It is all coming back to me.” I felt the same.
My mom joined us and the three of us stood there in silence. The understanding homeowner allowed us this time. For two years, we had looked out at the beautiful, rock cliff beach surrounded by water. Many things had changed in our lives since we had lived here. My father and brother were no longer with us, but quickly our fond memories wafted over us. Marcy and I remembered our time playing at our beach in the mysterious WWII pill-box with our brother. I remembered climbing the cliffs with my brother and sister and diving into the mysterious sea. Other times, we would dangle our fists into the water and squid would latch on to our hands and we would shake off our momentary friends, feeling kissed by nature. We peeked into the rooms of our old house and were appreciative of the many appropriate changes. The happiness of our former lives here enveloped us and we felt very content. We had been enthralled by our time here and we now knew that we would never forget it. It had been truly magical.
After some time, we tuned into our surroundings and the kind homeowner, who seemed to understand our emotions. After all, it was an amazingly beautiful place. We were so happy to reflect on so many memories and good times. As we walked up to the pathway to our very patient taxi driver, I felt that I had returned home. My mom, sister and I were thankful for the memories. We “felt home” and felt entirely thankful.