On coffee, parenting and studying abroad
“Buongiorno Signorina!” the policeman said flirtatiously, as he tipped his hat to me. I sped by avoiding eye contact. The clickety-clacking sound of my well heeled leather shoes, connected harmoniously with the freshly washed cobblestones of the Piazza San Giovanni in Florence, Italy. An elephant ear palmier in one hand, my newspaper and paint brush scroll in the other, I walked from my morning pastry shop, Da Scudieri, across the square to the front of the Duomo. I headed on to the side street that lead me to my art studio. My scarf was bunched in a fashionably self-conscious way around my neck, tucked underneath my tweed waistcoat. I had not a hair out of place; the influence of distinctively dressed Italians pervaded my senses. I did everything I could then, to imitate and flatter.
Today, I am standing in my kitchen, dressed in a pair of hole-filled yoga pants and an oversized sweater. Its 6:43 am and I have been up for 2 hours, drinking what could best be described more as hot brown water than coffee. My comfy slippers glide across the floor in a slow rhythmic scuff, more than a clickety-clack. I am ready less for impressing, than I am to get my family off to school and work. The view outside my window is snowy and gray. I decide to switch beverage gears and reach into my secret stash of espresso that I have been saving for the holidays. I pull out my small coffee press and whip up an earthy cup of brew that I turn into a macchiato.
The place of my life has changed.
Andrea, in her melodious Italian-speaker-of-English- accent, asked “Where do you think you will be in 20 years?” I worried, not letting myself see further than the block of Florentine palaces out the window, nor further than the row of clubs and bars down the brick alleyway next to our studio. “I don’t know,” I said, juggling my rolled canvases as I unpacked my paints. I felt the pressure then to be a ‘dolce-vita’-loving, ‘in-the-now’ person.
That feeling mixed with the genuine concern of uncertainty. How could I ever want to leave all of this? This landscape and language? These people? These feelings?
I set up my newly gessoed panel and Andrea came across with a swath of black paint and wrote,” HA! ” on the white background. I quickly buried it, painting a rough outline of the sensuous fruit still-life composed on the table before me.
Little did I know.
Overripe apples and veggies stand stacked on my counter ready for prepping. I pack lunches with an ease that is as automatic as tying my shoes. It takes less than 5 minutes to dress the bread with mayonnaise and turkey, chop carrot sticks, arrange raisins in artful faces on peanut butter, write love notes with sketches of cats, xo’s and hearts, and tuck away fruit slices into three separate bags. My speed astounds me and I smile a little. It is still grey outside and the snow is getting heavier.
I walk past my Italian still-life this morning, my good coffee in hand, remembering the bright day in Florence and Andrea’s smug and foreboding question. My clothes and their decidedly different composure, call into contrast the time when I lived to satisfy my romantic designs. I climb the steps to wake my daughters, passing the colorful canvas and its swoops of flowers and fruit.
I ask myself often how the landscapes I have visited remember me, when I carry them with me so poignantly. I am years away, (18 to be exact), from that day in Florence. It feels so real and recent, much the same way that yesterday’s parent-teacher conference, or dinner and errands, feel current and important.
I ascend the steps to the second floor, planning my wake-up pounce. My daughters are already awake and in the bathroom brushing their teeth. I see them in the bright light contrasted against the cold tones of the window behind them. “Good Morning Mama!” they say in unison. “Buongiorno!” I say easily. They smile and I pause to capture it.
- Communication through human connection (everydayambassador.org)