I love the way we can bring the past alive in our present ... recalling the people we loved and lived with, the way that they made us feel.
I find everyone is still there, as memories, whenever I look for them
7am here in Italy, a cup of coffee from my travel coffee-pot and a packet of Italian shortbread-like biscuits ...
Voila, I find memories of Nana and pre-breakfast coffee back home at her place, in Invercargill, New Zealand. Us chatting as she sped-read through her daily Southland Times, checking the news.
If we could have imagined the future ... ‘Hey Nana, in 2010 I’m going to be sitting at Paola’s kitchen table, in a small and ancient city in Italy, windowsopen so I can hear the sounds of the city waking, drinking coffee, just like you and I are now.’
Nana, who never left New Zealand in all of her life. I wonder if she dreamed of traveling. We never talked of those things.
Or a conversation with Mum ... ‘So I moved to Istanbul in 2003. You would have loved it! The people are so friendly, the summers are warmer than they were in Mosgiel. Come visit me?
Then Belgium from 2005,and mum would have flown in, creating a garden on that first massive terrace we had in Antwerp. And she would have spent evenings out there, ignoring the mosquitoes, drinking white wine and watching as the sun slipped below the horizon.
Genova! I’m sure she would have refused to leave. We would have laughed about me being my mother’s daughter perhaps, with a need for the sea and serious hills, and maybe we could have planned opening some kind of B&B here, with my daughter and her daughter, satisfying our oddly hospitable souls and the pleasure we find in knowing people.
And my lovely little sister, Sandra ... the one who has always been older and wiser, even if she was born after me. We used to talk across the space between our single beds, back in those days when we shared a room. If we had imagined my future life then we would have been guilty of inventing wild and untrue tales ... ones where Istanbul, Antwerp and Genova were flights of fanciful imaginations. Impossible dreams.
She needs to come here now. I need her in my life too.
But Genova ...!
Did you know that swallows fly up and down Via San Lorenzo, screeching like hysterically happy school kids, playing chase at an out-of-control birthday party. They amuse me, those swallows, even as I realise I can't begin to capture their antics with my camera.
And do you know how it sounds to wake to a cafe directly below your bedroom window? The clatter of cups and saucers, and the everyday Italian conversations that fly up and in through my window. The one that is open behind the still-closed green shutters, just across from my bed.
Did you know that this woman, a few thousand miles from home, with what feels like so many past lives, so far from the people she first loved, finds this Ligiurian city an exquisitely beautiful place to remember and miss them?
Church bells ring in through the open window ... 8am.
Time to begin the new day but Sandra, come over one day soon.
Ciao from Genova.