The heating system still works! Thank goodness, because inside our house it was 5o C upon our return. Yesterday morning it was -3o C outside.
We missed the snow last week, but our neighbors (and the newspaper) tell us that it will snow again this weekend. There’s still plenty of snow on the ground, though. The hills around us are blanketed in white and the Apennines are finally completely white. (When we left in early January, there had been little precipitation and a handful of days below freezing.)
There have been a few notable changes in our absence. The price of the newspaper jumped 20% (to 1.20 €) and gasoline is now 20 cents more expensive per liter (about 70 cents more per gallon). Claudia, our lovely young neighbor, delivered a boy on the day of our departure.
Other things remain the same. For example, I walked down the hill yesterday morning to replenish our refrigerator and ran into the usual characters who populate our piazza. And Deborah, Loretta, Maria Pia, and Cristiano were all tending their shops and commented on my extended absence. The old town is as impressive as ever, especially with snow on the hillside and valley below and stripes of pink clouds meandering behind in the pre-dawn glow.
Our first guests of 2012 arrive on Saturday and I am anticipating their arrival with pleasure. Even though I have resumed working for Arkansas Blue Cross, I am beginning to see myself as a B&B proprietor more than a programmer. Without guests, I am purposeless, like a sailing ship with empty sails, awaiting the next strong wind.
It is wonderful to be home again, but bittersweet to realize we were in the U.S. for almost a month. As I think back, I can recall each day of our trip and we did our best to make each one ‘count’. But it all went by too fast and of course there was not enough time to see everyone we wanted and to do all we wanted to do. We are so fortunate to have wonderful friends who hosted us in Little Rock and Chicago, and so many wonderful friends who wanted to see us.
Highlights of our trip include:
Mom, Pepper, and I hiked on the cactus-covered hills of Usury Park at sunset.
Dad, my brother, and I spent a wonderful morning in rural N Florida, inspecting our land. We ate lunch (BBQ – yum) with my cousin John.
My childhood friend David and I reconnected. He drove me to the 3 schools in Blountstown so that I could see a few of our schoolmates (most of whom I hadn’t seen since we were 18).
Mom, my brother and his family, and I picnicked on the beach in Panama City. It was warm enough to remove my shoes and dig my toes into the sugar-white sands.
The PAII conference (the ostensible reason we returned to the U.S.) was in Little Rock and I attended several great workshops.. We got to spend time with our friends (and mentors) who own the most beautiful B&B in St Louis.
Pepper organized a luncheon at E’s Bistro, overflowing with previous and future guests of Casa La Pace and many, many old friends. I was having such a good time that I never had time to eat!
Our (too-brief) time with our ‘host families’, who are so kind and generous with their time and their homes (and their dogs!). We treasured the early mornings and evenings when we were together, gathered in front of the fire or drinking tea in the sun-filled morning room.
We were able to see 2 movies with our Movie Club. Oh, how I miss our Sundays together! More than films, I miss our gathering around the dinner table and chatting for 2 hours about the movie, politics, and the little moments that brought us close together. It was like Thanksgiving every Sunday (without the horrid football games).
We ended our trip with 2 theater- and ethnic-food-filled days in Chicago. Once again, our Turkish friend was generous and kind, making us feel at home (and she also shared her dog with us).
Pepper has extracted a promise from me that we’ll return to the U.S. every year. With very little encouragement, I’ll keep my promise, even though it may mean forgoing trips to the Canary Islands, Africa, etc, during our off-season.