This is the hard part to write about (talk about, think about).
(If you didn't already read "Missing Italy Part 1: Some Background", please start there.)
For 35 years, I guess I have been trying in different ways to recreate this "Big happy Italian family". Though I was not blessed with biological children, a HUGE sadness in my life, I have always been drawn to big noisy families. My substitute has been friends, dinners, and parties.
In many ways, I have become my mother! Mom loved to cook and entertain. She planned, she poured over cookbooks. She baked. She "over did it". She had lots of dishes! She had two freezers, and two refrigerators. She bought in large quantities BEFORE there was Costco.
When Mom died, I used her stash of paper towels, tin foil, plastic wrap and waxed paper for FIVE YEARS before I had to buy any. I gave away at least 20 boxes of band-aids and dozens of new toothbrushes.
I have life-long friends (sorority sisters) who are in some ways like an extended family. Though we do not see each other often, we connect by phone and email. We visit a couple times a year.
My "Italian sister", Ida, and I talk daily, often sharing recipes, pouring over menus for dinner, holidays, and entertaining. This was how we first bonded on the beach in Maui 15 years ago. Jerry and I, and many on the ST food boards do this through sharing recipes there or on our blogs.
My therapist friends and I connect over other similarities and professional respect.
My REAL cousin, Palma, in New York, and I share food stories, and memories of our parents, aunts and uncles during our monthly phone chats.
I have appetizers and sauce in the freezer, desserts and side dishes ready "in case", but no one has EVER stopped by and stayed for dinner (OK, I can think of ONE TIME!). My desert friends rarely cook, and eat out much of the time. Don't get me wrong. I value our privacy and have boundaries, but would like more spontaneous getting together. Last minute invitations are fun. Brad and I continue to seek connection with those whose priorities are NOT just money, things, and competition. We have made a few close friends in the desert. We love those we have met who are REAL, honest, vulnerable, and non-judgmental. We miss them as they are away half the year.
In my hapy, naive world, sharing what you have with your friend is better than trying to have more than your friend. Friends don't play "tit for tat" or "keep score" on kindness. If I invite someone for dinner, it is not a contest, and they don't OWE me anything.
In many ways we have found a sense of community on Slow Travel. Through this community of travelers, we have met so many great people. This is a wonderful "Italy Connection" of people who either live there, or have traveled there and love it as we do.
After three years in our new home and community, after hosting parties, inviting neighbors for drinks, dinner, etc., I have been invited into three homes (two included Brad). In our recent three-week trip to Italy, we were invited to share meals or come over by six families of people we had never met before. THIS is the connection I don't find at home.
SO, yes, we joke about missing the pasta and gelato in Italy. We miss the stunning scenery, the piazzas, the passagiata, the pace, the three-hour meals with wine. We miss the countryside, the hilltowns, the magnificant cities, the art, music and architecture. All those things I can wait for. It is exciting to look forward to them on our next visit.
But, DAILY, I miss the connections, the relationships, the sharing, the kindness, the "Buon Giornos", the smiles to a stranger, the children playing safely while "the village" watches out for them. I miss the generosity. I miss having those who "get it" that this is NORMAL, not an exception. Daily I try to create those kinds of connections in my life at home. I will die trying. In the meantime, I will cook Italian, use the ST chatroom and GTGs as my piazza and passagiata, and continue to visit Italy once or twice a year.
I dream of and long for the hospitality, warmth and comfort of Italy.
If you're in the neighborhood (or want to visit), call first, then if we're home, come by.
There will be new sauce in the freezer.