It took awhile for me to process our Tuscan journey. I’ve hesitated to write because I was filled with emotions and felt as though I needed to sort through some things. I’m certain my words will fall short but my heart is still an array of emotions that bubble over. On my birthday, before my family arrived, I snapped a picture of my boots, walking to the car for one last journey up the hill with my kids, by myself. I realized that it would probably be the last time on this trip that the four of us would be alone and I wanted to soak it all in. We experienced things together that will forever be a part of us and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to aknowlege this to them. I was beyond excited for Jon and my family to come yet I was fully aware that our time there was nearing its end. It was both bitter and sweet. This picture and the image in my head that it creates is significant for so many reasons.
The obvious ones to me were that that hill that caused me so much trepidation weeks earlier called me to it one last time on my own. I had no fear this time- almost a sadness that this was it. Simply, I had done it. I had conquered my fears and I had made it to the home stretch. I was, once again, so grateful for the opportunity, for the adventure, and for the beautiful souls that touched our lives deeply. It was also incredibly hard and in that moment when I snapped the picture I was beaming because I had done something that at one point I really wanted to give up on. It can be hard to state aloud that you are proud of yourself but standing on that stoop I was proud. Not only that I did it, but that the three kids standing before me adapted to a life that was significantly different than their own (being taken away from their church, activities and friends) for 7 weeks and they did it with grace and enthusiasm (for the most part- ha). We could all learn from the resilience children display and the open hearts that they possess to new people and different surroundings. Our kids met friends that they adored and they adapted to life quite beautifully.
I thought about how in this life we need to take opportunities because each YES adds another beautiful brush stroke to our lives. We met people that will forever be a part of our story. These people taught me so much about myself, and who I wanted to be, without even knowing they were doing it. I also instantaneously thought that sometimes the bravest thing you can do is say NO to an opportunity.
I felt full of love for the beautiful city of Cortona. The place is overflowing with magic and abundant peace. I watched the walled city on the hill nearly the entire drive up there and I felt in awe that we had had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in this fairy tale. There is no place on earth, that I’ve found, quite like Cortona, Italy. I crave it like I crave the wine that the area produces- and that’s saying something. Even as I sit here today I feel a certain longing. I was even more grateful that because of the generosity and kindness of our friend Pamela we were introduced to Tania and Keith, their amazing olive oil and their loving community. They took the time and care, before they left, to introduce us to some of the most beautiful, gentle and giving people that allowed us to feel like Cortona was home and that we were one of theirs for a bit. They, and their people, exude beauty. WHO these people plainly are made me realize who I need to be better at being. Whether they know it or not they radiate Gods love in their actions and their deeds.
When we got up to the city that day, knowing that our family would be there in a few short hours, I started to shake on the inside. In fact typing this, is bringing back similar emotions and my hands are starting to perspire. I was full of gratitude and love for sure…. I was also filled with guilt and longing. Although the decision for our family to take this opportunity was made by Jon and I, together, being a world away took its toll. He was exhausted from trying to stay up late enough to talk to us in the morning and traveling to see us. I knew it and I felt responsible for it. I was tired because I was trying to keep it all together and not waste what we had been given. I was bursting with guilt that although we were able to give our children this amazing experience all any of us really wanted was to be home and to be together as a family of five. I needed my partner in life, and they needed their dad, and even if we were in this beautiful fairy tale land-when he wasn’t there a HUGE part of all of us was missing and totally incomplete.
When we were coming out of the city, heading down that not so scary hill, to meet Jon and the gang, I looked at my boots one last time. Our journey led us a world away and afforded us the opportunity to meet people that we otherwise wouldn’t have met, most likely, but it was time for these boots to go home. My greatest journey is the one I'm on every day with our family of five, and as the wife of my partner. I will never stop taking opportunities, my gypsy soul requires them, but God willing, my hand will be interlaced with his and for the time being 6 other feet will be with ours in this journey of life. Tuscany, Cortona specifically, will continue to draw us back… our people are there, but the boots that I wear, even today as I type, are grateful to be home. Home is not only where my heart is (some of it remains in Cortona), it’s where all my people lay their heads each night- it’s the opportunity that I said yes to 19 years ago- and the greatest journey of my life.