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Calling Me Home is our group's first published novel, and it marks a major milestone for both Julie and the blog itself. We started this blog more than four years ago as an outlet for some of our thoughts on writing, but also as a platform to help introduce us to you, our readers, as writers looking forward to publication. That time is beginning. In celebration, each of us is sharing our thoughts on home, how it calls us, and what it means to every "me" in our group. We hope you enjoy these posts, and we hope to see some of you February 12!
I suspect that any regular reader of this blog knows that travel is my porn. I get online, drool over travel websites, look at trips I might take and plenty that I never will, think about who I'd like to go with, whether my kids could appreciate the trips, you get the idea. The world calls me home, and the reason I drag my heiny to the gym five or six times a week is so that I can see as much of it as possible, for as long as possible.
A couple of weeks ago I left town for a trip I'd been fantasizing about for years: Italy. Ten days, three cities, plus day trips to Tuscany and Pompeii. An ambitious agenda, but it was just my husband and me, and we are (relatively) young and (relatively) healthy, and if we were zonked at the end of the trip, isn't that what the plane ride home is for? I've been trying for a number of years to get us to Italy (I covet pretty much all destinations that begin with an I, come to think of it), and we were finally going. It was going to be, well, not perfect as nothing is, but the food! the history! the gelato!
It was not perfect. It was often great, and sometimes...un-great. Some unforeseeable bumps made many things difficult, beginning with the rain as we left the airport in Venice. Followed throughout the entire trip by more rain. And sleet. And snow. Even hail! (That was at least in Rome, so maybe that was Caeser's fault.) At the Vatican, we ended up with a terrible guide who sadly robbed much of the glory of that amazing place. Being an honest person, I expect to be treated honestly, but we got bilked by a taxi driver in Rome, and managed to hop the wrong train from Naples to Pompeii, which cost us an hour on our feet on an already long day. But our guide Anton at the Forum was among the best I've ever had anywhere; and the Colosseum did not, could not, disappoint; and Florence was absolutely stunning in every way, beginning with the honest folks at the train station who told us to catch a bus to our hotel and spend four Euros instead of 20. We were awed by the Ufuzzi Gallery, impressed by the Pitti Palace, delighted with Bobboli Gardens, and ate probably the most delicious food of the trip, some simple jelly candies, strawberry and pear, from a confectionery in the historical area.Think of the most perfect fruit you've ever eaten, multiply it by 100, turn it into candy form, and you've got an idea.
I've traveled a fair bit, a lot less than many people (Joan), but probably more than the average American. I'm on my third passport, and each one is more stamped than the last. But this was the first trip where circumstances both in Texas and Italy were literally calling me home. On the phone, and in my heart. My daughter had an emotional crisis, my son a physical one, and I was trying to deal with both via brief phone calls and texts that were sometimes spotty. My daughter was apologizing for bothering me on my vacation, while all the time the only grief I had from her need was my inability to be there for her in person, and assuring her that she was the priority even above Palatine Hill. My son was in pain, needed Xrays and antibiotics, and the insurance card was playing hide and seek. It did not fail to cross my mind that like Dorrie in Calling Me Home, I wondered if I should chuck the trip and return to those who needed me.
But I didn't, and like all trips, it gets better in memory. For me, that's true of journeys that are nearly perfect (ah, Israel! oh, Charleston!) and journeys that are a mixed bag (Guatemala, anyone?). After the bags are unpacked and the souvenirs forgotten, the memories linger and, like wine (we went to a vineyard, and this teetotaler enjoyed the reds, who knew?), improve with age. All the imperfect moments, the frustrations, now seem like nothing, and my only regrets are the time I wasted not being perfectly happy with whatever unfolded as it did. The places that were wonderful are, yes, Calling Me Back, and the places that were just fine are now crossed off the list of this world and its wonders.