I went to Italy for the first time seven years ago this month.
It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Since then, I’ve married and had two beautiful little boys (one was a twinkle in the eye of my then-boyfriend and me on that trip, where we decided that when we got home, we would move in together and get pregnant. How impossible and far away that seems now!). I’ve written a novel that, alas, did not sell, and am nearly finished with a second novel. I’ve published piles of essays and gone to Italy a second time, this time with my husband and sons. I’ve kept meeting with my writing group for all of those seven years. I’ve made new friends. Life has marched along, full of its dramas and tragedies.
But…Florence will always always hold a special place in my heart. I went with friends, to a creativity conference, when I was still coming to terms with the idea of just wanting to be a writer.
The air is different in Florence. It is somehow both light and intense, lemony and astringent and concentrated. It smells of dust, and of the Arno, which is an unpleasant olive green (and yet somehow this does not deter from the views.
I’ve been hankering to travel again lately. It’s been almost a year since we went to Italy with the kids, and I’ve been reading Janice MacLeod’s newest book, A Paris Year. In her first book, Paris Letters (a memoir), she told the story of how she realized how much she hated her job in advertising and decided to save her money, pay off all her debts and move herself to Paris. While she was in the City of Light, she played around with her watercolors and wrote letters home with little paintings on them, and before she knew it, she was selling copies of those letters (hence the name of the book) and making herself a living as an artist in Paris. She spent two years there, and her story is charming and funny oh-so-inspiring…and romantic, bien sur.
When I first read Paris Letters a few years ago, I drooled and went green with envy at her adventures. By then I was already a mother. Trying to do what MacLeod did was not in the cards for me (I was having different adventures!). But I’ve also been strangely drawn lately to other memoirs written by mothers who did exactly what MacLeod did, except with their families; Tsh Oxenreider traveled the world for 9 months with her husband and three kids under nine, and Eloisa James took a sabbatical and moved her family to Paris for a year after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
None of this is to say that I’m packing us up and moving us all to Europe…but still, I keep coming back to these narratives. Maybe they sate the temporarily-benched traveler in me, or maybe I’m working up to something. Who knows. But they sure are fun, and they’re keeping me entertained.
And in the meantime, I can reminisce. And smile.