I have had a very busy fall, which was highlighted by a two-week trip to Italy for the Story Circle Network Writing Workshop and Sightseeing Tour and also a week-long trip to Texas to help celebrate the marriage of my niece, Charlsie, to her long-time partner, Austin. Both events were filled with fun, laughter, and a tear or two. The tears in Italy were when I sat quietly in the crypt of St. Francis of Assisi which contained his tomb. It felt very much like a sacred place and I was deeply moved to be there. I also admit to crying when I saw Charlsie escorted down the aisle with her father, Sam, on one side, and her mother, Holly, on the other. Such a sweet and touching moment to see such love on all of their faces.
On our tour of Northern Italy, I had the opportunity not only to host SCN members and their families (along with several close friends and members of my own family) but also to serve as the workshop leader for women writers. Starting in Rome and heading northward, our group of forty visited small towns and big cities in Umbria and Tuscany for a truly immersive Italian experience. The entire group ate, drank, danced, and sang together over the course of seven days and nights. On most of those same days, the women in the writing workshop convened to write about and share our impressions of our experiences. From getting to spend quality time with SCN women during writing sessions to chatting with my beloved niece and her husband from Salt Lake City to joking and being silly with our dear friends from Chicago and Wales to having not only two of my daughters and their partners but also the boys’ mothers on the trip. Wow. What could have been better?
My husband Ray was there as well and served as the “alternative host” for the Italy trip. That meant that he planned places that he especially wanted to see and then let people know they could come along if they chose. His interests were centered primarily around exhibitions of Italian filmmakers like Fellini, Pasolini, and Sergio Leone, as well as modern art exhibits, such as the surrealistic art in Peggy Guggenheim’s home and the Anselm Kiefer exhibit at the Doge in Venice. For most of these, I was able to join Ray’s group after the more traditional tour in the morning. This added another dimension to the trip for those who wanted a different twist on sightseeing, which was wonderful for them and also for me.
At Charlsie’s wedding, we ate, danced, talked, ate more, then danced more. What a joy to see my two granddaughters dancing with my great-nieces and nephews, all of whom are fifteen and under. How lovely to have many of my nieces and nephews there along with my first cousin and his wife, Lee and Elaine, and my brother and his wife Jaime. I saw old friends, made new ones, and joined with all of Charlsie’s and Austin’s friends to commemorate their marriage. What a wonderful celebration!
I am back home now and will bask in these lovely memories. Perhaps because of the trials of the past couple of years, these gatherings feel even more poignant than ever. Life can be tough and life can be grand. This past month for me has been grand indeed and I am truly grateful.