We didn’t sleep well last night, which actually lead to a bit of sweetness between my eldest boy and me. Tom was playing musical beds following Craig around last night and at some point my bed ended up empty when Jackson wandered in not being able so sleep himself. It seems to be the 230am burden at this point, each of us have been up in varying combinations at this hour every night. Jackson and I decided to read for an hour, during which Craig intended to come back into bed but found his spot taken. We all had a giggle and he went back to the kids’ room and Jackson and I back to our ipads. Thankfully we were able to go back to sleep at some point, but no one woke before 10am.
We started our day with a positive attitude, aided in part by this breakfast at a local bar. (“Bar,” is to Italians as “coffee shop” is to Americans. I’m pretty sure I like their version better.)
Saint Peter’s was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen constructed by humans. Awe inspiring, truly. It felt holy the moment I stepped into the square (which is actually more of a circle). The line was in the shade and moved quickly, we were in within fifteen minutes and, although crowded, it was nothing–NOTHING–like the vatican yesterday. For me, the biggest difference was that at Saint Peter’s there was room to move and be inspired, even room to pray which I did with great gratitude. I brought my journal with me that had a photo copy of Rick Steves’ walking tour through the basilica and I learned and saw and shared with my family really interesting things. When Tommy wasn’t stressing about how high the ceilings were, a new fear of heights has emerged on this trip, even he was taken by the beauty of this place, including the gold inlay of the latin words that joined the walls of mortals and the ceilings of angels.
The one thing I wanted to see was the Pieta, Michelangelo’s masterpiece depicting Mary holding her dying son. When I was confirmed my grandparents gave me a replica from their trip to Rome many decades prior, Papa’s handwriting on the bottom now faint with age. Even before I had sons of my own this sculpture spoke to me of the deep and un-fillable hole that I imagine comes with the loss of a child. To me, knowing that loss was coming and choosing to mother him anyway…that is the greatest sacrifice I can ever imagine. It moves me to no end and the original statue did the same. I sat many minutes in quiet reflection and gratitude for what it really means to be entrusted with the life of a child and the great call God puts in the hearts of parents to care for that gift.
Having the opportunity for some quiet that day reminded me that, like it or not, I am an introvert and we are a people who need quiet to find peace and peace to find Grace. We took this family photo outside when we were done and I think it really captures how happy we all were today. Maybe the old adage, “If Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy,” has some truth to it.
As it turns out, my internal shift was not the only epiphany of the day. It was on the way to the trattoria that I noticed something remarkable: my external self matched the external selves of those who call this city home. Everywhere I looked were big noses. Mine was no longer the biggest of the bunch, either, and that’s something to note in and of itself. Like me, men and women had bountiful, big hair, none of it smooth and silky, none of it tamed and controlled. My propensity for dramatic displays of affection or frustration were child’s play compared to the people of this city and I marveled at how, for maybe the first time, I was more the same on the outside than different.
I know it to be true by stories and records, but was it possible that my heart also recognizes this as the place of my biological origin? As city of my people? As I glanced across the street considering this very question, my answer revealed itself. Even my middle name, pronounced the way my mom says it, not the way most people assume, belongs here.
We stopped at a few tourist shops, got some gelato once back in the neighborhood, and then hit the market for a few dinner items. The walk was lovely, in part because the clouds had moved in to cool things off but it had not yet rained. Also because we weren’t lost. Mostly, however, because my family was in that sweet spot of a place where all was well.
Our last stop was this tiny shop dedicated to one of Italy’s soccer teams, AS Roma. We have been staying out of the center of Rome, in a neighborhood of locals where tourists are uncommon. Accordingly, this shop was not the typical tourist spot, but rather a place young men would gather around a tiny TV set to watch their team play not because they don’t have a bigger or better TV at home, but because here they’d be together as AS Roma family.
I say all this because, as it turns out, Romans take their soccer *very* seriously. This man in his late twenties was stuffed in this tiny shop overflowing in maroon and orange, and looked like the happiest person I’d ever seen. His shop was his great source of pride and to have people in to shop was like having people into his home. Gracious and kind, excited at the prospect of an American boy taking home a Roma jersey in celebration of his city and his team, this was one happy and contented man.
We headed home to load up photos, chat with friends on Facebook, and make another humble dinner of cheese, salami, prosciutto, bread, salad, and fresh cherries for dessert.