Setting: San Marco Piazza at 6. Definitely late afternoon and not early evening. We sit on the shady side of the square at one of those impossibly expensive cafes. The sitting charge, usually a euro or two at very nice restaurants, is 6€ here. Julia eating a sundae, gelato, whipped cream, chocolate and bananas. She will finish it, I am sure but this is probably super. It is huge.
I have a tanquerai and tonic with ice. Ice! The waiter brings all this on a silver tray that sits on our small table. There is also a small glass bowl full of potato chips and another with olives. Good inducements to drink more.
As romantic as this could be imagined, there are more tourist families here than couples gazing into each other’s eyes. Pure smaltz and packaged dreams but it is where I am today. Five years ago today. Another anniversary of a living I didn’t know I’d have. The birth day of this life. Another year without David. I could toast myself for making it this far. For observing in Venice, not hiding at home or even surrounding myself with friends. A five piece band strikes up, begin the beguine. Julia sways as if she is dancing. There is still a lot of Frank Sinatra played in cafes here and songs from old Broadway musicals. I don’t feel foolish listening at home to Italian pop from 30 years ago.
The heat of the day is relieved with a breeze. Thank any and all the gods of this place. People check maps, feed pigeons. Dogs bark, clock towers ring out another hour. Perhaps another year. We were in that tower yesterday. The bells looked ancient. The sound is of this hour. The double bassist plays while the bells ring. A combination that is not music. Sound. David played the bass. Julia snacks on the chips after she finishes her ice cream like Jim Jones liked to do. He has been dead for 25 years give or take a year. I can remember him, talking to him as if it was last year, not 25. But the slight choke in my throat is not for that dear friend. Gin feels good going down but it fills my eyes.
Yesterday was the fourth and Facebook friends posted in red white and blue. I felt far away, separated. No one here to celebrate. Today, the holiday is even more personal and just one dear friend sends rememberings. One is enough. This is a small holiday.
And I got this far.
That cab driver from the convent to the train station two days ago in Florence let Julia ask him why he was not married. Nice guy. ‘Better to be alone than with the wrong person.’ He asked about my husband and I said no, not married. I’m sure he thought I meant divorced. I did not clarify. Three years ago, perhaps even last year I would have. I miss the person who would have corrected but she is gone. I don’t like being single but like the reclaimed single person that I have become. No dependent half of a couple could have made this journey happen and arrived here. The clarinet wails ‘love is a many splendored thing.’
Will tomorrow be too hot to go to Murano? The Natural History museum today was splendid. Who thinks of dinosaurs in Venice? Julia and I. The displays were evocative, like movies. Very well designed and executed. Very Italian. Not that I can say what that means but it is a different ethos than our natural history displays and I appreciate seeing it all from another point of view. I can compare it to the Indy dinosphere. Completely different but both intense and whole in vision. Like Will Leach explained design in theatre class at SLC may more years ago. The lessons are still relevant. Yes, I recommend it.
Places change me. Place is important. When Silvia asked why David and I came to Italy, I could finally say that we wanted to be strangers some where beautiful. I come now to collect the piece of soul I left in Italy. I come to be at home. I have been thinking of horcruz the last few days. Not in the dark wizard sort of way but how I have left parts of my soul, my spirit in places I love. Italy is one of those places. NYC another. I have come to reclaim what I left and to leave a different piece. My question now is what I will make of this knowing.
I have put more ice in my drink over and over. Now, it tastes like water. It took a long time. For 6€ we have rented chairs and a table somewhere I did not know I would be. Somewhere hard and marvelous. During this trip, I have talked about David a lot to Julia, ‘daddy did . . .,’ ‘daddy liked . . .,’ ‘daddy said. . . ‘. But we have made new memories here. I have claimed the place for me. For myself and Julia. This has been such an unexpected journey and so familiar. Unknowable and completely familiar.
It is mine.
And now Julia wants some supper.
Coda: We walked back fro San Marco. My iPad was almost depleted and I wanted to make sure we could get home. I have no pride about maneuvering without directions. There is a tiny restaurant steps from out door and we stopped there for food. The man of the couple at the next table (actually the other end of the single table we all sat at) engaged Julia in talk about her drawing and we wound up spending hours sitting and talking. They from England, both originally from Scotland and him have looks reminiscent of Patrick Stewart. I’ve never thought that his looks were ethnically Scotch but surely they are if this man is any indication. They have a 21 year old finishing her first university year in physics. She is on the spectrum, sounding much like Julia when she was 14. Could there have been a better gift? The woman is a teacher in elementary, volunteering to work in a prison to teach those inside how to teach others to read. She is going to Shanghai in September for three months. Their daughter has found mindfulness as a means of keeping herself in focus. We had a lot to talk about.
Later, we were joined by two women from Norway staying at our B&B who wanted a drink before bed. One had visited Madison and even Wisconsin Dells when a daughter lived there. The German couple on our other side joined in for a few minutes as well.
Had a micromanaging God arranged such an ending for this day? Was it a pure synchronicity of place and temperaments, parents missing children and the reward of travel companions even if for a short time? Is it merely being aware and awake to what is possible and embracing it? We widen our world and find how much we share.
So unexpected and completely familiar. Like for the breeze, I mark gratitude.