Word Count 447
By Joann Dickson
It was the trip of a lifetime. Michael had always promised Maria that they would take a trip to Italy, the land of her ancestors. But between demanding jobs, raising kids and paying college tuition, it had never been the right time. Now the kids were out of college and settled, and Mike and Maria had retired. As the time grew closer, Michael started getting cold feet. “How will we manage in a country where they don’t speak our language? And I don’t even like eggplant, mushrooms or zucchini. What will they have for me to eat?” But the plans had been made and off they flew, from Buffalo to Newark to Rome.
Instead of staying in a large city, they had chosen to stay in an “agritourismo” which was basically a family owned farmstead inn with a restaurant. The attraction was that all the foods served in the restaurant were sourced locally. That appealed to Maria more than big fancy restaurants. They had a rental car because they had also planned to visit some vineyards and ancient walled villages.
On the way to the inn, they passed fields of bright yellow sunflowers which nodded to Maria as if to say “You finally made it!” Tall, thin Italian cypresses swayed in the breeze. The inn looked to be at least five hundred years old, made of stone and surrounded by grapevines. Out in front, four young boys were playing bocce on the lawn.
“My grandfather had a bocce set just like that!”
The minute they walked into the tavern, they were greeted by heavenly aromas wafting from the large pots simmering on the stove. The bosomy lady of the casa greeted them with a big hug and a kiss on each cheek. They sat down and soaked in the atmosphere – the food, the people, all speaking and gesturing at once! Such a beautiful, musical language! Maria remembered sitting in her grandmother’s kitchen, listening to her mother, aunts and grandmother speaking Italian because they thought the children couldn’t understand what they were saying.
“Why did I never ask my mom or grandma to teach me to speak Italian?”
In the corner, a three-piece band was playing a cheerful song and a few couples were dancing on the small dance floor.
“I remember Grandpa playing a mandolin just like that one!”
Michael ordered a chicken dish and Maria ordered gnocchi with a sage and butter sauce. When the food arrived, Maria remembered watching her grandmother making gnocchi at the kitchen table. She had a knack for twisting the fork just right to make those little lines in each one.
As she took her first mouthful of food, Maria whispered “Home – I’m home.”