Most people know that I lived in Italy, however, most people do not realize that I was raised in Italy. I moved there when I was 1 years old. My first word was in Italian and all of my schooling was too. All of my friends were Italian and I was, by all rights, Italian. I am grateful to my mother for teaching all of us kids how to speak English, although my lack of a foreign accent doesnt help people realize that Im not from “aroun’ here”.
My father accepted a job with Harding University in 1984 and we moved from Indianapolis, Indiana (my birthplace) to Italy. This move wasnt my fathers first time to Italy. My father also grew up in Italy as he was and is the son of a Missionary to Italy. My father moved to Italy when he was 3 and remained there until the day he left for college at 18. Thus, I am a weird third culture half/american - half/Italian.
My mom is a saint simply for going with him. My father speaks Italian fluently, as do all of us kids, but my mother did not. In the days before the internet, the fall of the Berlin wall, Chernobyl, mad-cow, the fall of the Soviet Empire, and cell-phones, my mother moved overseas with 3 kids under the age of 3. Gotta love Mom!
Ive decided to share some of my experience from my childhood over the next few weeks. These are simple little memories that have come to define me as a person.
I am one of 6 kids in a family that has always lived off of one salary (a teachers salary at that!) but my father, being a renaissance man, always chose jobs that would allow us as a family to do and see things that most havent or wouldnt be able to see or do. I am so grateful for this! This has allowed me to travel the world and see life in a different manner that most. I see the globe as my workplace. I see each and every culture and people as an adventure and something to know and understand. I am not limited by a single culture or geography. I see the world differently.
Todays little story is from one of my favorite places in the world - an Italian pastry “bar”. The Italians use the word “bar” in the same way we use the word “coffee bar”. What we call “Bars” they call “pubs”. This is a coffee and pastry place that is family friendly and is a local hangout for neighborhoods.
We always went to Mario’s Bar. He had so many different coffees and pastries! I loved going there. I would get a mille-foglie pastry, a chocolate bigne, or a melted cheese sandwich on schiachiata bread. One could get a cappucino, a caffe latte, a macchiato, an espresso, and so much more. These pastries were made with a love and a passion that most can not understand. They are made with generations of experience and artistry. Yet, the best part of Marios bar was what happened when you walked in.
“Ciao! Buon Giorno!” (HEY! Good Day!)
The greeting. He knew us by name. He would often come and sit down and ask about our days, work, life, and family. He welcomed us into his world with open arms and we were always his guest of honor.
When I returned to Italy after spending 2 years in China, I walked into Mario’s Bar not expecting anything. As soon as I walked in he saw me and proceeded to come from the back and give me a big hug and the Italian greeting. He remembered me.
He asked me about my dad, my family, my brothers, my job and life in general. He was truly glad to see me. He still remembered my “usual” and wouldnt even let me pay. I love this about Mario and his family.
To this day, he still calls my dad on my dads birthday. He also calls at Christmas just to wish us all a Happy Holiday.
I love how this carries over to our Father in Heaven. He also awaits for us and welcomes us with open arms. He knows us by name no matter how long we have been gone. He wants to know everything about us and all that we are. He makes time for us to talk.
I have had many homes all over the world. I now own a home in Helena, Alabama, which I love, but it will never be my home as much as Florence, Italy was and is. My many adopted homes (Helena, Athens, Wuhan, Henderson, Searcy, Tallahassee) have a special place in my heart but my heart belongs to Florence.
“You can take the boy out of Florence but you cant take Florence out of the boy”.
Im sure Alabamans believe the very same thing about Alabama! As the holidays roll around and we all long to be “home”, wherever that may be, how much more should we long for our “home” in heaven?
Do you long for heaven? Do you long for it as much as we long for our “homes” when we are away from them?
I miss Italy and everything about it. That feeling has allowed me to better understand how much I need heaven. I want to feel the same about my savior. I want to long to see him. I want to run into his arms and talk with him. I want to go home to him. I long for him.
I miss Italy but I long for heaven even more.
What about you?