Holding my cup of coffee on a Sunday morning, I looked out my window at the radiant blue sky. Living on the fifth floor of an ancient apartment building affords me excellent views of Florence. And, as evidenced by the Renaissance masters, the ethereal light in Italy is unlike anywhere else.
I watched the early morning sun sneak its rays through the cotton clouds.
Suddenly, breaking the morning's stillness, was my favorite neighbor. He looks to be about three years old. I don't know his name, I just know that he delights me daily! This morning he was still in his pajamas, chasing after his cat and singing. Right on his heels was his mom, calling him to come inside for breakfast. I watched her lovingly gather him up in her arms.
And I remember.
I remember when my days were filled taking care of the needs of my children. When breakfasts were made, and sticky hands washed, couches became forts, and laundry reproduced at an alarming rate.
I remember being a mother of teenagers. Those days the sound of the garage door finally opening at 2:00 a.m. was the answer to my prayers, and there was no limit to the amount of groceries consumed.
I think about how I got here. Not here as in living in Italy here, but here... living alone.
Like many women of my generation, I grew up with the aspiration of marriage and children. The End.
(I actually wanted to be a wife, mom and a Rockette, so my ambitions were higher than most.)
I certainly never planned on living alone, although there were times, during the child raising years, it was a favorite fantasy! And yet, closing in on 60 years old, it's where I find myself.
And, I live in a foreign country, where I still struggle with the language. That can be a lot of alone. But daily, I find it so interesting.
Would you make your bed in the morning if you knew, for certain, that no one would see it all day but you? How about meals? Placemat and napkin? Would you even cook?
I never gave much thought to where I would be when the job of being a mother was over. I certainly hadn't wished to be a wife, mom, Rockette and move to Italy.
But, here I am. Settling in to a new chapter of life, yet another one that didn't arrive with instructions.
These days I work and study, and I write. I meditate when I want to, and choose my own time for breakfast. I walk. Everybody in Florence walks. By the end of the day I have accumulated hours of walking, and miles on my shoes.
And almost every day, I get a gelato (hey, it's the small size), and sit down in a busy piazza or market to take in the people watching.
Mostly, I watch the mothers.
I marvel at the young moms navigating a child's stroller along the cobblestone walks. And I remember.
I remember dropping into bed so bone tired I thought I would sleep like the dead, only to awake instantly at the sound of a coughing child. I remember tip-toeing in after my babies were in bed just to hear them breathe, just to watch them sleep. (And by "babies" I mean until they left home.)
I watch the women who are around my age. Always in a dress or skirt, with sensible shoes, they rule the market place. I have to admit, I am a little afraid of them. Even the butcher is a little afraid of them!
I watch the very old women. They are treated with great kindness here. It's common to see them at the family's restaurant or market stall. Knowing almost everyone that comes by, now their presence is all that is required.
I check them out. I look at their hands. Hands that most certainly made ragu sauce for a family (with one child on her hip) and soothed a fevered baby. Hands that buttoned up sweaters, combed out hair, aided with school projects, and scooped up children to bring them inside for breakfast.
I imagine that she, like me, looks in the mirror some mornings and thinks, "Good God, when did all this happen?"
I imagine that she, like me, is taken aback with how quickly it all went by.
I live alone now. I am somebody's mother, somebody's sister, somebody's friend. But most of all, I am my own woman. I am completely intrigued by this chapter of my life.
And, much to my own surprise, I make my bed every day!