Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Old Country

As I mentioned in my last post, I visited with my parents this past weekend who have just returned from 5 weeks abroad. They spent a month of that time in Italy and a week cruising the Greek Isles.

They enjoy their retirement.

While in Italy they stayed in my father's ancestral village where he spent his childhood. The name of the town is Coreglia (pronounced kor-ay-lya) which looks like this:

The town is so named because from an aerial view it appears to be heartshaped--the root "Core" meaning "heart" in Italian, although it might as well have been named for the warm atmosphere and lovely people who live there. As you can see it's quite a picturesque spot located in the heart of Tuscany at the foothills of the alps.

My father's experience there, and indeed the first six years of his life, were not quite as peaceful and lovely as this picture might suggest, however. Dad was born in 1938 just before the war in Europe. His father went away to fight in the Italian army before my father was old enough to remember him, a duty my grandfather resented being a staunch anti-fascist. His father ended up spending most of the war in an American POW camp in North Africa and did not return home until 1945. Meanwhile my grandmother was forced to raise my father alone in a war torn country with bombs going off all around.

Coreglia is outside the city of Lucca which is halfway between Pisa and Florence and therefore was in the line of fire for a lot of planes overhead during the war. My father, who can be a bit morbid at times, likes to tell the story of playing with a sheep in a meadow as a child, hearing the sound of fighter planes echoing off the mountains, running inside for safety only to return to the meadow later to find that a bomb had blown the head off of said sheep. Charming. Thanks for the bedtime story, Dad.

Another rather dramatic tale involves an air raid in the middle of the night. My father heard the planes, was frightened and ran from his bed to my grandmother's room for comfort. Minutes later a bomb hit the corner of their house where my father's room had been. Now, you must understand, my father never told these stories to shock, impress or scare us in any way but rather, they were just a fact of life for him.

It's only as an adult, especially after living through 9/11 here in New York, that I realize what kind of impact this must have had on him at such a young age. This is long before people started running off to psychologists of course or even talked about things like post-traumatic stress disorder. But somehow children are amazingly resilient and can still manage to be kids even in the middle of chaos. So thankfully my father has many happy memories of Coreglia as well.

So. While mom and dad were away, my mother decided that it is her dream to have all of her children and grandchildren together in Italy at the same time. ("Because it's important to know where you come from.") She'd like to arrange it for their anniversary next year. We could stay in my father's village and use it as a home base to make day trips to places like Sienna, Pisa or Florence or for 3 or 4 day sojourns to Rome, Venice or Milan. The plan is to rent a villa for a month or so to accomodate for varying schedules. The villa might look something like this:

with views like this:

and grounds like this:

and a pool like this:

This is my mother's dream: A villa in Tuscany. And I get to go.

Now I ask you, who am I to stand in the way of my mother's dream?

Stay tuned for the madcap misadventures of a family who goes on vacation with their adult children.

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