OK, so I have to put off my blog about being sick and Italy AGAIN, because I got sick again. I’m trying to rest and do things right this time, since I have some travel coming up — except to say that I have amazing neighbors who certainly came through when I need them! They helped me contacting doctors and the Farmacia. Also, the Farmacia in Montefino was AMAZING as well. And I’m grateful to neighbors bringing me pasta soup and generally making sure that I don’t die.
But of course, that is what living here in Montefino is all about, isn’t it? You’re never really alone and there are always people around who will help you and who care about you. More later, as you could see from the cover photo, I don’t really even have to leave my bed very much!
I still find the fizzy aspirin to be kind of weird and interesting though. More on that in my later blog. Time for ear drops and more sleep.
My first Thanksgiving at Fonte was an interesting experiment, a lot of work and a lot of fun! And it helped me realize an important element of my Italian experience. I was going to have to be alone again on this second Thanksgiving at Montefino, because of a confluence of scheduling changes and since my family is joining me for Christmas, so I decided to invite local guests to feel less homsick on a holiday that plays on the emotional heartstrings so much. But, I also realized that a party, a “Festa,” on a work night could be a bit problematic, so I thought about moving my celebration to the weekend. But what would be the point?
On the 4th Thursday in November is when I would be wistfully thinking about all of my American friends and loved ones, eating turkey and celebrating one of my favorite holidays without me — not the weekend before or after. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of my Thanksgiving dinner was that I didn’t I want to spend the actual holiday on my own?
One of my worst Thanksgivings was spent in the Frankfurt international airport , on the phone with my then-college aged son back home with the rest of our extended family having the traditional turkey dinner. I was flying from an organic Agriturismo farm in Puglia, Italy where I had stayed for several months to Thailand for a few weeks before Christmas, in my own “Eat, Pray but not Love” adventure during my divorce, 10 years ago. It had been a year of changes and highs and lows. Holding back tears as I spoke to my son, 4000 miles away, on that lonely Thanksgiving, was definitely one of the lows…
So, I was determined to have a festive Thanksgiving, on the actual day of the American holiday this year at my wonderful new home in Montefino. And, although my closest loved ones would be far away from me, it turned out to be a pretty great one. But I also learned some of the limitations of having this particular holiday in rural Italy. And if am going to spend other Thanksgiving holidays here at Montefino in the future, putting together a social gathering more like a traditional American Thanksgiving is going to be a process.
When I first spoke to people about inviting them over for Thanksgiving, they had some ideas about our quintessentially North American holiday, but they did not understand that it was not on a set date and it definitely wasn’t something that I could move to the weekend. It was hard to explain that it was on the fourth Thursday in November and and almost always a daytime celebration. And that Americans generally made it a weeklong or at least a four day weekend celebration if they possibly could. This is what probably makes it possible for busy Americans to still celebrate this labor intensive, high calorie, family and football-filled day!
(Anyway, Italians don’t really need a special national holiday for these things; here it is simply Sunday dinner.)
But Italians are also unfailingly polite and kind so I think they knew that this was very important to me. My friends very sweetly said that they would at least try to come by and I think some of them knew that eating, at least something would be necessary to help me be less homesick on that day.To make sure that no one felt bad, I painstakingly put together this invitation, to let them know they were welcome to come for a drink or for dinner or whatever they wanted. They were just welcome to stop by and help brighten up what otherwise would’ve been a lonely Thanksgiving without my family.
Thanksgiving may not seem Italian one the surface but welcoming newcomers and helping them get settled into their home certainly is. So I guess I had a REAL Thanksgiving at Fonte Della Monache, in the most pure sense. Grazie, Italia! Thank you for making me feel welcome. Thank you for your warmth, your friendship, your beauty, and for your endless patience. Italians show settlers like me the spirit of Thanksgiving every day!
I have to pay the ‘caparra confirmatoria’ and a further advance payment for my new Abruzzo house in the middle of all the upheaval over a possible “Grexit” and thus, following the ups and downs of the Euro to Dollar has become a new pastime, in between thinking about what colors I want to paint walls and wondering whether any of the people who are clamoring to be guests at my new Italian house, will ever really visit.
My new need to convert such a large amount of money has made the fluctuations of the Euro to the Dollar and the day to day clashes between the Greek and German PMs a part of my new daily media routine, the way American politics had been in the past. Bad news brings the Euro down and good news brings the Euro up; up, down, down, up — it gets exhausting! And while I would NEVER wish harm, financial or otherwise, to any people on this earth — couldn’t a teeny tiny bit insecurity remain while I make my transactions?
Oh, God, did I really write that? Where people can see it? I’m a BAD person! But, let’s face it, the downward trend of the Euro, in addition to some personal changes in my life, such as both children almost out of graduate school, made this purchase possible. So, I follow the news and try to time my unbelievably high — for me — purchases of Euro at the best rates possible, to make my dream come true.
Because, let’s face it again, unless you really DO have a Fairy Godmother, you have to work hard and be smart to make your dreams come true. And the battle of wills between the new young Greek leader who came to office with a mandate to end extreme austerity measures in his country and the German Prime Minister, with an iron grip on finances in Frankfurt and Brussels, affects MY future too. And my dreams. I’m sure they don’t really care about this…but I wonder if they know their actions affect so many others or if they would be surprised about it?
The story of how I finally got my lovely home in Italy will unfold over time, but the week that I found out that I actually was going to own the farm was also a week of heartbreak. My dog, my pet – – my companion of 13 years who had patiently waited for me to return from my trip visiting my new potential home in Italy, finally succumbed to cancer. It was less than a week after my return that I was petting him, and looking up at the blue sky as the vet made sure his departure from this world was a peaceful one, surrounded by those who loved him.
I’m crying right now as I type this. And I never thought that I would be the kind of person who would be crying and crying this way over the family dog. But I miss his eyes — the love that used to shine out of them. Eyes that showed love for me no matter what. That expressed a love that had no conditions. Big brown eyes that said, “I only want to be near you.”
But a week ago, the only thing that those big brown eyes said was, “I hurt.” He still wanted to be near me but I knew that he also needed me to let him go. And so I did. Sadly, he would not come with me on my next adventure. He would not come with me to the beautiful restored farmhouse in Italy where I had dreamed of him sitting next to me, in the sun gazing at OUR Olive Grove and at the view of the Apennine Mountains.
A few days later, my offer on the house that I had fallen in love with in Abruzzo, Italy, was accepted and I was ecstatic. I went from heartbreak to ecstasy so quickly that I almost was dizzy. But I knew that Scooby — yes, the kids had named him that as a pup — had loved me unconditionally and wouldn’t mind my going without him. After all, he had only ever wanted me to be happy. And, it made me happy to be the new owner of Fonte Monache — “The Nun’s Spring” farmhouse, in Montefino, Abruzzo. I will not take possession of it until the late summer or early fall but this is something I have dreamed about for so very long. And it has not been an easy journey either…but first, thank you Scooby. I miss you!
Or, as the locals would call this blog: "Why did the 'sola Americana' buy an olive farm — what's wrong with her?"