Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Rewind and Review: Cliff’s Notes: 2013-2016

Ciao a tutti!

Many thanks to my loyal readership for encouraging me and for reassuring me that the updates from this newest life chapter would indeed be seen. I’m delighted to again take on one of my favorite tasks: chronicling the incredible, most often in the form of all things foreign: travel, life abroad, food food food, the vagaries of native and host culture, political and literary digressions, and more.

I’ve journaled more or less since age 7, but life, fortunately, got more interesting than what was happening with me in 1980 and 1981, which were events no less weighty for my age, as I wrote to help myself understand our move from Oklahoma City to Traverse City, Michigan. A goldmine of cultural observations therein, I can well assure. Life continued on and I continued to journal, mostly for myself. However, I write best when I know that someone – especially someone with a finely tuned sense of humor – will be on the other end of my written words to chuckle with me.

Let’s quickly review, in a sort of mise on scene, what has happened since I last accessed this interface – since it has been over three years, and truthfully, I had not reviewed any of it until last night at 3 am. I’d like to blame baby jetlag, but for this, I blame just myself.

In 2013, we were headed home to Oklahoma from Italy after 13 months in Arezzo with the OUA program: both of us teaching, providing faculty-in-residence type support, and the rest of it. Arezzo was good to us. I dream yet of the pastry case in Bar Stefano on the Corso. Victor was in daycare there, at the incredible Santissima Maria Consolatrice on Via Minerva. He turned 2 in Italy. The class I taught, Italy at the Crossroads, was a prescient topic that presaged Europe’s coming hot topics – growing ever hotter – Lampedusa, human trafficking through Italy, an Italy at the crossroads of the Middle East and Europe, of Africa and Europe. I had pitched the course idea to Zach Messitte, then Dean of the College of International Studies at OU, and quite possibly my best manager ever, supporting me in every way while diplomatically addressing what Alice Klocker even more delicately termed “growth edges.”

Back in the US in early July of that year, I was applying for jobs – interviewing at the University of Chicago and Santa Clara University – trying to restock our pantry and recommence our life in Norman. Trying to get used to American daycare in Kindercare after Victor’s incredible teachers in Arezzo, and his silver-service, three-course lunches as a one-year-old.

I changed jobs, and hopped aboard the SS Terra Dotta in December 2013. Jason kept looking for that perfect fit for our family that would take us back to Europe and bring him to a more interesting career juncture than that of rank and file faculty.

Improbably, we discovered that February that I was pregnant again, with the baby who would become our Lady Eleanor. The rest of that year is lost in a haze of working at Crimson and Whipped Cream and devouring slices of their pumpkin bread, sweating, being heavily pregnant, and floating around pregnantly in our pool. Eleanor made her grand and well-humored entrance on Halloween of 2014. I watched far too much “Outlander” far too many times at home with her, and found many new friends through its fan network.

A near-miss in May 2015 would have had us moving to Hartford, CT with Trinity College, but our Italian angels were holding us aside for something better. Jason applied for a position at Gonzaga University, and, after an external search of almost a year, and interviewing multiple times in multiple locations with any number of campuswide committee members, was offered the position of Director of the Gonzaga in Florence program. We immediately began our preparations to return to the place that felt most like home to us.

I’d like to add here that Jason’s European travels began at 14, mine at 19. We had both spent considerable time in Europe and in Italy as students and professionals, and had traveled to Italy every year since we met in 2003, with the exception of 2007 and 2011. We have a foundation and a base here that has informed our lives, individually and as a couple – and now as a family – that is treasured, and can never be replaced.

Our house in Oklahoma sold quickly. Our cars not quite as fast, but zoom – and gone. I sold and gave away about 75% of our belongings. For an opportunity like this, we could let go of a lot, and then some more. We happily jettisoned in preparation. I gratefully retained my remote-work employment with Terra Dotta.

We spent the month of June in Italy in preparation for our move back this fall, finalizing details relating to school, daycare, our apartment, and more. July and August were stateside in Spokane with the Gonzaga community as we awaited visas. Finally, the day came for our departure, and we flew from Seattle to Florence a week ago today. I’ll spare the details of that test of stamina, with a 1 year old and 5 year old in three seats in the middle row in coach on Delta, but we made it.

Europe has changed in the three years since we last lived here. The Syrian situation, and the tandem refugee crises, has worsened, and bled across European borders. Europe is jittery, and well-peeved by the recent Brexit result. France and Germany sound like they’d like to give even more of a piece of their mind to the UK, and refrain out of simple civility. The similarities between Brexit and our election year at home are unnerving. Unemployment in Italy for the younger crowd is an incredible 42%. We are cushioned and protected here, on our American payrolls in Europe, away from the vitriolic politics of the US and the violence that trails it. And yet, Italy, and Tuscany in particular, seem the same. There is l’ora d’apertiviti in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. Young women with perfect lipstick serve generous scoops of gelato after dark all over the city. It’s humid. Mosquitoes buzz. Motorini buzz on the viale.

It is as we remembered it, and yet, it is our future slate.

The scene is set.

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