After deciding that it would save us money for me to fly home with the things we wanted to send, we bought the tickets and packed our bags. Everything we wanted to ship home fit in the two large black suitcases that have been our traveling companions since we left the states more than 18 months ago. When Bob talked with the airline before we left, they told us the maximum weight for bags was 43 kilos each. We borrowed a scale from Giorgio and Laura and made sure we didn't exceed that limit. We loaded Bob's 4x5 camera and accessories that he hasn't really used since he bought his new digital camera, my easel that didn't see much use either as it turned out to be more clunky to carry around than I realized and in the small apartments we've had, ended up more often folded up in a corner than in use, plus a bunch of summer clothes and souvenirs, including our beautiful mortar and pestle that Esther made for us. Just to be on the safe side, we planned to bring an empty suitcase to the airport, in case our system of weights and measures was inaccurate after all. (Get on the scale, see how much I weighed, then get on again with the bag!) I bought a small duffle bag thing as a carry on and filled it with the journals and paintings I have done up to now and wanted to take home at this point. We had considered sending them home via FedEx or some other secure transport company but was happier to be able to hand carry them myself, knowing they would safely arrive that way.
Racing through the Airport
For some reason, we thought the trip to Milan was shorter than it really is - I guess there was no traffic the day we picked up our daughter and her husband earlier this summer - but what we expected to take only an hour and a half, was more like 3. Fortunately, we always plan to leave enough time for all the security checks and what not, but even at that we were scrambling. The signage at the airport left a lot to be desired. In most large cities there are signs leading to the airport telling you which airlines are in which terminals but here, there were no such signs. And to be running late and have no help whatsoever in finding our way was disconcerting to say the least. Finally we found the right one, Bob dropped me at the door to go and check in while he parked. I was struggling with the suitcases when he came running in and at the same time a representative of the airline was telling me that my bags were too heavy and I couldn't even pay a fee to cover the excess weight, they simply would not accept such heavy bags! Bob ran back to the car (which was illegally parked outside the terminal) to get the third bag and we hurriedly shifted a bunch of stuff from the heavier bags to the spare bag and all was well.
By this time the flight was close to boarding and we raced through the airport to get to the gate, stopping at security where Bob asked if I could bypass the long line since my flight was boarding and getting dirty looks from everyone in line! We said a quick goodbye as I went through the metal detectors, removing my shoes and answering their questions about toothpaste or other liquids I might be carrying and proceeding through to board the bus that took us all to the gate halfway around the airport! I could finally relax since it was obvious that this entire bus was filled with people boarding my flight and I managed to be right on time!
A Long Flight to Richmond
A crazy flight plan never seems so when you are checking fares online and trying to get the best price. This one was no exception. My cheap fight was a non-stop to Philadelphia from Milan, with a stop in New York before arriving in Richmond, Virginia. A direct flight from Philadelphia to Richmond is only about 40 minutes, but routing through New York added at least 3 or 4 hours to the whole itinerary which seems ridiculous but that was what I did. The worst part of it was that I had started to get a cold earlier in the week that I was trying my best to fight with whatever over-the-counter medicines and vitamins I could find, to no avail. By the time I took my seat in the center of the large plane with a man on either side of me, the coughing began. I was a mess. The cold meds were doing very little and I was really miserable. As I am sure they were as they kept trying to look the other way. I felt terrible to be spreading all my germs, plus I just felt miserable. It was a long flight to Philadelphia!
A Surprise at the Airport!
The cool thing was, when I got off the plane in Richmond - and I was literally the last one off, wanting to wait until everyone left so I could drag my sick body slowly out of the plane, there was Chris walking towards me and at his side, her tiny hand wrapped around his large one, was my little granddaughter Kyla! It was so sweet to see the two of them together and she recognized me from the photos Chris and her mom Kim had showed her. She gave me a very sweet hug and said "hi Grandma." I just cried! I tried not to breath on her for fear of spreading my illness to her.
We loaded my heavy bags into his car and headed home to Chris's sweet little townhouse apartment. She chatted the whole way home in her carseat in the back of the car and Chris answered her and talked with her about what she was telling us.
What I did in Richmond
The next day Chris took me to the doctor's office where they diagnosed me with an upper respiratory infection, bronchitis and a sinus infection and prescribed strong antibiotics and cough medicine that started working right away and the horrible cough subsided. It was really frustrating to be sick at this point, since this is the first time I have been sick since we left the states in February 2005 and it had to be right now! Chris was scheduled to have Kyla for the weekend so it was my goal to just rest up, sleep and get better by the weekend and that was what I did. I slept all day, took my drugs, watched all my favorite old movies on TV (including "An Affair to Remember" and "West Side Story") and by Saturday was much better, although still not back to normal, felt well enough to play and talk with Kyla and we had fun going to the park and just hanging out together. She is smart and funny, loves to play in the water in the sink, to go down the slides at the park, to read books and do puzzles and color with crayons and markers. She loves Dora the Explorer and especially Diego and his pal, the monkey Boots. She likes to play hide and seek outside Chris's apartment and is still little enough to think if she can't see you, you can't see her and it was absolutely adorable to watch. It is obvious that she and Chris adore each other and everything seems to be working out well for all of them. We got together with Kim and Shea and Kim's other two kids Brandon and Megan and went out for pizza and that was fun too. All in all I was very glad I had gone and now look forward to the future when Bob and I can see more of our son and granddaughter and be more part of their lives.
Feeling like an Alien
The week went by very quickly. By Tuesday I felt well enough to venture out and as it was raining, I took a cab to one of Richmond’s museums (the Virginia Historical Museum, as the Art Museum was closed). I had lunch in a little local restaurant and had it not be soggy out, I would have walked around more. But just getting over bronchitis, it didn’t seem like a very good idea and I went back to Chris’s house to wait for him to come home with Kyla who would spend some time that evening with us. That was fun and she gave me a big hug and kiss goodbye. That was hard, knowing it would be another five months until I saw her again.
I felt a bit like Mork (the “outer space” character Robin Williams played on TV!) and very much an alien being in a strange land. My brother asked me once when we were living in Perugia if I felt like I was still a tourist or if I really felt like I lived here. At that time I had said more like a tourist since we did more touristy things, didn't work or own a home etc but I have to say that after having been in Italy now over 18 months I do feel like I live here. Like Italy is my home. Even though we have lived in different areas and moved around, not really set down any "roots" it still feels very much like home to me and I don't know how I will feel when the time comes to leave it. It will be difficult. Knowing we will go back to the states and be able to see our children and granddaughter, our friends and family more often will be a great thing but still, I know a part of me will be here in Italy and I wonder how I will feel not being here in this beautiful country we call home.
Rosemary e Roberto
p.s. Still nothing final in Amalfi and I'm getting pretty anxious! Keep your fingers crossed we find something this week. We are scheduled to leave Verona on the first of November so it's getting a little crazy.