The Love of Family

Ice cream scoops collection on white backgroundWe decided to celebrate our last night in Sorrento with a dinner in our apartment. Jill and I walked to the market. She wanted to make mashed potatoes the way she’d learned in our cooking class in France. She picked out some yellow-jacket potatoes and fresh parsley. To add an Italian flavor, we got some Parmigiano Reggiano. The butcher showed me some freakily large chicken breasts and when he saw my shocked face, offered to slice them. This inspired me to buy fresh bread crumbs along with a few eggs and milk for a wash.

Lee found a local jazz station and Chris helped him hook up his portable speakers. The seven of us gathered around the table. I poured Chianti and proposed a toast to our time we’d all spent together. We enjoyed a first course of buffalo mozzarella balls tossed with olive oil dressing and the sweetest grape tomatoes I’d ever tasted. I served my breaded chicken breasts with pan gravy and Jill’s potatoes. The flavors reminded me of home and made me feel sad that our time with my in-laws was coming to an end.

After dinner we went down to the street for some gelato. We’d been enjoying this dense and creamy Italian version of ice cream ever since day one in Rome. Sampling flavors was part of the ritual – rum raisin, pistachio, banana, dark chocolate, watermelon – there was always a variety of exotic flavors. We found a table on the sidewalk and watched people walk by.

“Like the strawberry, Grandpa?”

He stared at the street, seemingly in a trance. “Mmmm-hmmm.” After a moment or two, he sat forward in his seat and pointed to his daughter. “You know, it took a lot of balls to plan a trip like this.”

“Lee!” Shari slapped his arm.

“Cojones.” He clarified, as if to post-censor his words. He reached over and gave Donna a big hug.

* * *

It was such a beautiful night and the warmth of the sun lingered. We strolled down the narrow streets where lights were bright and energy high. Lee and Donna walked arm in arm. I thought of the photo that sat on Donna’s desk in her dorm room at college. Lee and Donna were sitting on a bench. Shari took it during the trip when they delivered Donna to campus. The two were in the middle of a heartfelt conversation.

Back at the apartment, the kids settled into bed. The four of us pulled the dining chairs out to the front balcony and opened another bottle of wine to enjoy under a million new stars. I felt melancholy. This warm familiarity that joined us along this path had been nice. The next day we’d return to the road without them. It felt like leaving home all over again.

Donna and Shari yawned and announced they were hitting the hay. Lee poured the remains of the bottle into our two glasses. We stood on the balcony and absorbed the din of the streets below and the serenity of the darkened hillside beyond.  With the wine kicking into gear, our emotions easily surfaced. The conversation got deeper then moved toward topics like appreciation and admiration. It was a good time to say goodbye. At the risk of creating an awkward moment, I gave my father in law a hug. He returned it. I waited for him to pull away, but he didn’t, so I just kept hugging.

Boy, how I needed that.

NEXT: Comes with a Mini Kitchen

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