Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

After five months of being in the USA, and 40 days apart from Giuseppe, it is time to return to him, my beloved Tuscany and my Italian family.  I have been in no hurry to return there, as spring can be cool with a chill-to-the-bone dampness. We spend all our time together especially touring the country to promote the wine and my book.  Three months on the road in close quarters and working side by side made me ready for a little time apart.  I stayed in Orlando, where my friends are, where I soaked up day after day of blue skies and sunshine and where I scooted around on my Vespa, grinning from ear to ear.

As the day to my homecoming nears, I am feeling an eager anticipation.  Distance really does make the hear grow fonder.  It’s a sign. A sign that my heart is still open and ready to give and receive love. And that Giuseppe is the one and we have survived another one of life’s transitions.  I drew a line in some silly shifting sand and let my ego run the show.  Not all life lessons are deal breakers, so why make them one.  We both learned something. His accent and use of English helps soften my heart and gives him a huge “hall pass” and still puts a smile on my face, like the time he sent me a photo just after he cut his hair with a caption of “look how much cute I am.”  What is not to love?  I am going home because I want to be there. I try to remember our house and view from the porch and my many walks down the country lane.  And I try to remember Giuseppe- his scent, the curves of his body and the taste of his kisses.

Stepping off the plane in Rome, I am shocked at the temperature.  Warm and sunny, hot actually!  What was the big deal?  I should have come back weeks ago. Why did I wait so long? I turn on my old Italian cell phone, call home and let them know I have arrived safely and aboard an evening train headed for Montevarchi.

Carla, Giuseppe’s Mom, and Fausto, Dad, have waited up to greet me but it is late so say our goodnights. Giuseppe and I lay in each other’s arms.  I have forgotten how much I adore him.  How much he makes me giggle and the tenderness in his gaze. I have also forgotten what is like to snuggle up close and drift off to sleep in the comfort of a man’s strength. It is like being together for the first time, which is six years ago to the day that we first met.  I had been in Italy for just 10 days that summer when I made my first trip to the winery not knowing how that day would change the rest of my life.

It’s almost noon when I rise from the darkness and first pull up the shutters in my bedroom to see green!  Green is everywhere, the birds are chirping and a wonderful sweet aroma fills the warm air.  I’m home! And it’s better than I remembered it. Giuseppe has been up for hours doing his morning chores.  He snuck out quietly letting me sleep.  The six-hour time change and flying all night always gets me upside down. One good 12-16 hour rest sets the world straight.

I make a cappuccino and sit on the front steps and take in the view.  Sadly, there is no Benny to gently nudge me until I go fetch him a crust of bread.  Our family beagle died of old age while we were gone this past winter. The grass in the lawn is green and tall.  It’s my job to mow and I can’t wait to make everything perfect again.  A new pine tree has been planted and Carla has already brought the lawn furniture out from its winter storage place.  She has gone into town to buy fresh bread as she does everyday, so I decide to throw on some work clothes and get busy mowing before she returns.

We live in the house with Giuseppe’s parent who lived here with Fausto’s parents.  Grandpa Giuseppe and his wife Rosa moved here from Lake Como area when Fausto was 17.  He and Carla married when they were 27 years old and Carla moved in from her childhood home just a mile or so down the road.  This is where we will remain.  There is no upgrading to a better neighborhood or bigger house.  It belongs to our family and this gives me great comfort. Some people find it strange that we live with Giuseppe’s parents but I think we’ve hit the jackpot.  There are four sets of hands to do the work.  Everyone contributes his or her part without overlap.  How wonderful it is to have another woman in the house to help take care of things.  It is a different mentality than how I grew up.  My house- my rules so when you are 18 years old, go and make your own.  Here, because we know we will live together forever, I think we are much more tolerant with each other. Or perhaps, my ignorance is bliss!

After a quick shower, I prepare the table as we do for both lunch and dinner.  We dine as a family with a tablecloth, wonderful homemade food, much from our garden, fresh bread and of course, wine.  After the meal, we linger for about and hour, enjoying each others company and letting our food digest before taking a nap and returning to work about 3 or 4pm.  What is not to love about this rhythm to the day with it’s high and low of energy and work/rest?  In the states, we rise in the morning, charge up for the day, stay full-on until 7pm, then eat dinner, drink wine and crash on couch, full and in food coma, barely moving for the rest of the night. Even though I know how to live a different rhythm, I too, find myself falling into this pattern when I am in the states. The need to be productive all the time just takes over.  Taking a day not to leave the house is practically impossible.

As we watch the TV news, I am reminded that not all is well in paradise and the political climate in Italy has changed.  Taxes on primary residences are being levied for the first time and patriarchs are taking their own lives out of shame because they cannot pay.  The homes of civil servants assigned to the task of collecting these taxes are being bombed or pelted with stones and garbage.  They quickly resign.  They are members of the their community, friends and neighbors to the towns people and no one is in favor of these new rules when the headline scream of government officials misuse of funds.  I have always admired the Italians for their defiance.  What happens when you can’t get the masses behind the government? What happens when people refuse to pay and march in the street in protest?  To me, as an American, I feel passive.  I shake my head, grumble about it for a moment and then go on my way.  The Internet has made it easier to spread awareness, sign a petition and put my two cents in. But that’s all.  Here there is a feeling of compassion for another’s plight rather than competition.

My favorite and least favorite part about living in Tuscany is the isolation.  I loved not knowing what was going on.  The language barrier kept me isolated from watching TV or understanding the news.  I was so busy exploring that I didn’t have time to miss much.  Later, I yearned to know the intricacies of the language so I could really understand the stories that the old men told while sitting in the piazzas.

But today, I sit under the big tree in our front yard at an old table made from a hollowed out tree trunk and sip the amazing wine made by my beloved.  He learned at the hands of his father, who learned at the hands of his father.  I love when they push away talk of expanding the business, knowing full well, that one cannot put this much care and thought into wine made in mass production.  The love can literally be savored in every sip.  The warm summer sun shines down, the barn swallows swoop in and out- busy with nest making as I sit and gaze out over the long perfectly manicured rows of vines.

This is what I remember.  This is what I love, this nothingness.  There is nothing to do, nowhere to go.  Only to live in the moment, enjoy each breathe, each kiss, and each sip of wine.

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