People asked me for the entire week if I was excited. Everyday and every person came at me with the same question. There weren’t ‘hellos’ or ‘how are you’s’ but instead only ‘are you excited?’ It’s not a mystery as to why people would do this. I had been mentioning this moment at every possible opportunity to every possible person, whether Italian or Parma. I had talked about it so much but it continued to be surreal. I couldn’t get that excited because it was actually a dream. It wasn’t actually happening. Of course I was excited but my brain ordered to treat the anticipation as one of those far distant occurrences that would never come to fruition. Then, though, she arrived and life, for a far too short weekend, turned into my dream.
Courtney got off of the train at the under-construction Parma train station and went the wrong way down the platform. For a brief minute I had worried that she had gotten off of the wrong train. Without a cell phone that would have been disastrous. But then there she was, beautiful even after her exhausting day of travel. Courtney was in Italy! She was finally with me! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know how to react. She was there in my city, visiting my foreign life. My body relaxed. Life felt right. Life felt home. I could once again take care of her, cook for her, bring her to restaurants and shop with her. Finally we were in place which I knew. This was my city and I could show her around. Courtney had come to me, she actually came.
Light in heart and elevated in my soul I walked Courtney the short distance from the station to my house. I walked her along the river and pointed out my house on the other side. Then I took her through the park behind my house (I have the greatest location) and showed her the marvelous public park even when the leaves have nearly all fallen onto the permanently moist ground. Courtney’s first impression was more awe at the fact that trees were everywhere. Granada, being semi-arid, has very few trees. She marveled at their prevalence. It had been so long since she had seen this many in one place. It reminded her home and commented that Parma in general feels more similar to New England because of the trees and the weather. Unlike Granada, Parma actually has a change of seasons. We have trees and weather that varies; sounds like New England to me.
I knew that the experience of living in my home would floor Courtney because Nice is the polar opposite of Courtney’s home mother; before I had even arrived in Parma Nice had told me that Courtney would be welcome to stay with me for however long she desired. When we got back Nice was cooking dinner so she could only have a quick introduction, but she gave Courtney the usual full love, calling her beautiful a couple of times while imploring her to eat Parmesan cheese and enjoy some red wine. Love, food and wine. Welcome to Italy Court.
The plan for the night was dinner with Nice and friends (Matt and Giordano were coming as well) in what Nice kept calling Courtney’s party or a party for Giocamo’s girl. In addition to the roast, vegetables and salad which Nice had prepared for Courtney I had decided to make her a truffle risotto (I had purchased some truffles the weekend before at a pork festival, go figure). Our little party got under way once Courtney finished her shower and for me it was the solidification of the sense of home that had prevailed in my life since she had arrived. Courtney was in my home and I was cooking for her. Just like Spring semester all over again.
But beyond the obvious connection to home it felt incredible to have her there with me sharing in the amazing and unbelievable world of Parma. Instead of only telling her about Nice and the indescribable love she showers upon people, Courtney sat there firsthand and experienced it for herself. It was a true family dinner. We sat around and explained the Italian life to a probably a bit overwhelmed Courtney. Nice, being a mom at heart, found it necessary to embarrass us with exclamations of how adorable we were. All of my friends, as well, made fun of me in every way possible (that only added to the feeling of home!). Annetta even made a guest appearance at dinner to meet the special guest! She marveled at Courtney, calling her beautiful and giving me the ‘thumbs up’ (in actuality a sort of head nod with her head cocked halfway to the the side, eyes opened wide, smiling and her hands raised slightly). She called us a gorgeous couple and gave her full approval. Quite adorable.
After dinner Courtney and I finally were able to spend some down time in my room, which had suddenly been transformed into something entirely different than it had been all semester. My homey room, though small and bare, quickly became cramped. As a consequence of this crampedness it necessarily became messy as Courtney’s things littered the floor, sprawling themselves out in any available floor or wall space, little of which was available from the beginning. My tiny bed, with barely enough mattress for one person, struggled to support the two of us. Still, after all of these ‘discomforts’ my homey room had never been more homey, inviting, comfortable or to my liking. My suitcases were finally out of sight, all of my clothes unpacked and all of my random medicines or toiletries in their proper place. For these reasons I felt grounded for the first time in my room, but the reason above all for which I finally felt home in my ‘home’ was the presence of Courtney. She brought with her a reminder of home and a sense of comfort. If she were everything necessarily had to be ok. She brightened the room with her presence even as she cluttered it with materials. It felt nice to have that sense of comfort finally descend upon me in the place where I had been residing for more than a month. What could possibly be wrong when Courtney’s there? I guess, after all, ‘home really is where the heart is.’
After our bit of relaxation I brought Courtney with me to the boys’ apartment before we went to the club. We went inside and Courtney had to deal with a whirlwind of introductions. This happened to be the only weekend of the entire semester, except the first in Parma, where the entire group would be there. Courtney picked a fine weekend to come visit! We sat down upstairs at the table where I had sat so many times before and did the same thing we always have done before heading out; talk and drink a little bit. This time, though, exactly as with my room, everything was different. I no longer had to brag about Courtney because she was there in person. I felt proud that my group-mates finally were able to meet the girl about whom I had been talking the entire semester. It was great to see her interact with my group and I smiled. I didn’t have to say anything, finally. She was there in person, which always trumps words.
Not only did her presence affect the external situation but within I began to let myself enjoy myself! The familiar weight which had accompanied me on every excursion in Italy no longer remained. It had been lifted entirely by Courtney’s presence because nothing felt lacking. In all honesty I had always enjoyed myself going out with the rest of the group, but my mind had always been tugged in two directions; one towards the immediate and one towards Courtney. As I’ve tried to explain before, I guess I don’t have the same ‘strength’, ‘courage’ or whatever it is to ‘live in the moment entirely.’ Part of myself constantly flies to that which it misses; generally thoughts of Courtney or home. With there I had no need to separate because they were intertwined. I could let myself live in the moment and it created quite a different dynamic. Everything seemed more fun.
We made it to the XXL club which is a fun place on Thursdays but is never extraordinarily crowded, something which I appreciate. Tonight, however, they were apparently having a massive party for some Southern Italian holiday all about drinking wine and the place was literally overrun with people. To get in we had to survive a mosh-pit version of a line. Literally people pushed against each other and pulled each other instead of waiting patiently in an orderly line. It was quite hectic and I felt awful that Courtney would have to deal with this crap (I wasn’t exactly happy about it either) but we made it through and spent several hours ‘dancing’ or at least trying to maintain some sort of personal space in the wave of people. Courtney had fun so who cares!