French Fries and Vineyards

In reality, I belonged in two very different worlds. Or perhaps I belonged in none at all. One was full of new and exciting things. But also familiar things. This place held fond memories of learning, musical car rides, and hours of sports and studying. Memories of waking up with a book across my face and, sometimes, keyboard impressions on my cheek. It was innovative with the latest mechanisms and enormous skyscrapers. Always changing.

The other realm was the polar opposite.

In this other land, stereotypically thought of solely as the origin of creamy cheese and fresh, steaming tomatoes on a thin crust, is occupied by history. Remnants of almost-ancient times. Times with kings and queens and families so powerful they ruled the world in more ways than one. This place held different memories. Memories of the smell of laundry dried by the setting sun, the gusts of wind that flew through open windows, and the moist soil on my back as I stared at the stars in the middle of an unharvested vineyard that smelled of warm grapes while leaves rustled. Never changing.

When put this way, it sounds like a fairy tale. To belong to two places that seem straight out of a movie? Well, that was the dream, wasn’t it? 

When Summer carouselled around, sometimes smiling; other times storming, it meant an eight hour stay in a pressurized tube floating in the sky. A recipe for nausea. Usually students look forward to vacation, alas, I had not. I thought it a dreadful time of year. A time for my family to look at me with cautious eyes and ask, “Parla italiano?” It was far from pleasant. My answer remained the same. 

“Poco, poco.” always with a want-to-be-redeeming-smile plastered on my face like unbreakable cement.

The summer of ‘19 was different, however. As I had rested my elbows on the granite windowsill of the tall, open windows, and looked at the neat rows of hazelnut, chestnut, and truffle trees and lines of grapes ready for harvest, all I wanted was a small side of McDonald’s fries. A true European I was. 

I took a sip of my Estaté – the quintessential Italian iced tea – instead. It quenched my desire for steaming, salty french fries in a bright red package. Or perhaps it did not.

“Quando vai al negozio di mobili?” My mother asked, a wan smile on her olive face. She had the idea of remodeling The Room that was once her own. Once the storage room for the days proceeding harvest, it was a relatively small space with ancient, pattern-forming brick floors and arched built-ins. Small details showed its strenuous years of ware. The view was not awful. The alps could be seen on a clear day. However, it was overwhelmed by red and white polka dots. Apparently quite the rage some 30 years ago. She did it out of love and hope, I had appreciated her efforts. I still, unfortunately, had been conflicted. 

But a little change may go a long way, or so I had been told. I had been reassured by these words. Reluctantly reassured. 

“Non lo so. Scegli tu.” I didn’t know what I would buy, let alone when I wanted to go to an unknown furniture store. But, maybe a rug would be nice. And a reading lamp.

“Bene. Domani sera.” Tomorrow

I sighed as, no surprise, the furniture store did not have air conditioning. I looked up to see my stern-faced father sweating bullets but saying nothing. I murmured these thoughts to my cousin who tagged along; I suspected so she could score a free desk.

“Certo! L’aria condizionata ti fa star male!” She had squealed as if my ignorance of this “fact” was a felony. 

“Ti piace?” My mother held up a gray and white throw pillow a centimeter away from my nose. 

“Sí, va bene.” I did need more pillows, after all. I felt hope begin to rise.

“Y cuesta?” My cousin tried to hold up some mystery object from behind some oak bookshelves. “Va mi vadere?” All I heard was her weezing as she tried to pull whatever it was higher.

It was a light smoke and ivory rug that could easily fit in The Room. I liked it, to my surprise. I didn’t have to plaster a smile on fakely. It was genuine. 

“They have a record player.” I had whispered mesmerized by the sight of the vintage record player. It was cool to the touch, silver lining covered the edges of the shiny gun-metal gray exterior. 

“You should get it.” My dad examined the artisan piece.

“I don’t have any records here.” I chuckled at his oblivious words.

He smiled and snickered, “Get it anyway.” 

As the evening went on, I found our arms full of random objects as we walked to the counter (a whirlwind of two languages continuing to circle). This surprised me more than I could describe in words. I was dreading this visit because I thought I would have to put on a joyous face, no matter if I was happy or not. As this was usually the case. But, I found that I was laughing as my father fanned himself with an antique map and my cousin was talking about her droning philosophy teacher. 

A lamp, a rug, coasters, notebooks, a record player, the list continues. All of this to fill my room. To make it my room.  

Alas, it was a drag to carry it all up the steep, stone stairs.

As I stumbled through the glass door to my room, excited and anxious to see the work my mother had dispatched, while I stayed in the south with extended family, I practically screamed.

The comforter fit like a glove. Its bright white color had reflected the sunlight about The Room. The walls were now a soft white paired with dark ashen trim and the same color fireplace. The rug made The Room warm in the glow of the setting vineyard sun. 

This was out of a movie. 

On my mother’s newly restored desk, had sat a mysterious cardboard box. I had been intrigued. Opening it carefully, the contents shocked me. It had been things shipped from Connecticut. Some of my record collection, perfectly fitted and unharmed. Too many books to count: Lee, Riordan, Rowling, Saint…

I had rushed downstairs in a frenzy, taking out a bottle of Estaté (room temperature, due to the century-old fridge). Taking a sip as I skipped up the stairs, almost falling twice, I got to alphabetizing. 

I couldn’t understand why I had been so unwilling to the thought of having two spaces. Spaces that were mine, specifically…

The morning of our flight I woke, as I normally did, to the sound of roosters. The sound of the fan also fell upon my unwelcoming ears. 

“Forza, svegliati, abbiamo un volo da prendere.” Mother yelled up the stairs. The noise radiated, echoing due to my domed ceiling. “We are going home. Forza!” she yelled for the second time, preceding the secondary call of the roosters below.

Which one I thought silently before drowsing off.

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