Tuesday, December 20, 2005

the long trip home

Yesterday I went city hopping. Yes, I started out in Rome, jumped to Amsterdam, then Detroit, and finally, around 8:30 in the evening, arrived home in Indianapolis. I am, as you might imagine, mixed with sleepiness, jet-lag, and, when I woke up this morning, no idea where I was. But it's getting better. There's a Christmas tree in the living room, my dog's asleep in her bed, and I feel like a high school student woken up early on the morning of a snow storm, waiting for the radio to tell me not to go to school.

But instead, it's my husband I'm waiting for, as he should be calling me shortly, and I'm most likely awake this early because it's 2 pm in Italy. Two days ago, after a full afternoon and evening wandering around Rome, zig-zagging through side streets and main streets and tourists and locals, shopping the markets and eating giant chocolate covered donuts from Piazza Navona, my husband got on his train and said goodbye, both of us near tears (okay, so I was a little bit more than 'near'). I was leaving again, but he was the one on the train headed toward home. We were about to spend the next 10 days apart: Christmas, visits with family, seeing friends would all be done in separate places. I wasn't ready to spend the holidays without him. I wandered back to my room at the hotel, wondering what I was doing in the middle of Rome at Christmastime, alone.

After leaving Rome, we touched down in Amsterdam. Just two hours in flight and we landed in such a different place--straight lines counting out squares in the flat country side, the lack of cypress trees and umbrella pines, the water more silver than blue. Upon landing, I went quickly through passport control, listened to heavy dutch accents over the loud speaker, and felt quite far away from Italy. As we took off on that second flight, I looked below me at the city. Amsterdam was drenched in a sort of golden light that shone off the river and waterfront like a mirror reflecting the sun. Maybe this place wasn't so different from Italy, I thought. It was perfect: leaving Europe as the sun shone back at us, the whole city glowing as if dressed in a fairy tale. I almost waved goodbye.

And then we got to Detroit. Below me, I could make out patches of land all covered in snow--the only distractions were the lines of black streets drawing squares and rectangles in the white. Houses were barely visible-roofs covered in snow as well. This huge mass of land was America. I couldn't tell if I felt at home or not, but I smiled as we touched down to the runway, the wheels finding American ground, finally.

Going through Detroit's airport, I found the gate for Indianapolis and sat down. Nex to me, a woman chatted on her cell phone about work. I didn't pay attention to what she was saying, but I listened to the way she said the words--that particular accent that comes after living for years and years in Indiana. It was a welcoming sound, her voice right before my last flight. Another step toward home.

And finally (as I actually managed to sleep on the last flight), I woke up as we were flying into Indianapolis. It was dark, and the lights of the city shone brilliantly, giving the whole place a sense of Christmas. And while I couldn't recognize anything specific (my glasses were in my coat pocket, which was above me in the luggage compartment), I knew where I was. I was in awe as I stared down at my city, how big it was, how different it was from where I lived today. My eyes teared up, and I suddenly realized that this was it--this was why I chose to come here for the holidays, to leave the early winter of Italy and make a 16 hour journey to Indianapolis. I was here again: my other home. My first one. I would miss Antonello--how could I not?--but I was making the choice that I needed to make. I needed to be here. I realized, all at once, that I hadn't known that answer until now.

And landing, touching ground, I nearly clapped. It had been two years since I had spent Christmas in America, and being here now, welcomed at last into the city I had once always called home, felt just about right.

Merry Christmas to all! I miss you, Italy! I love you, Antonello! I'll be back soon!



At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Laurie said...

Merry Christmas to you Jackie, and also to Antonello! Enjoy your visit and safe travels....

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

thanks laurie! buone feste!!


At 1:49 AM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Jeff Cottrell said...

Damnit...you were in America? Man, I find out the day before you leave, suck! Hope you had a great christmas in america!


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