As I've written in all my posts dedicated to Jenny, Jennifer has often remained a stranger to the many people I have known during my fifteen years in Italy. I've grown to miss Jennifer so, to dream about wearing her shoes again that I often forget the nostalgic love I feel for Jenny.
Last week I met a dear longtime American friend that I grew up with. She was in Italy on holiday, and I decided to take an entire day off (no small task... I leave in 20 days) and meet her in Sirmione, on the shores of Lake Garda. Sirmione was the backdrop for the first four weeks I spent in Italy, and was were I feel in love with the man who would be the catalyst for abandoning America.
Each time I rattled off something in Italian to the waiter or the ice cream vendor, I realized how strange Jenny must appear to someone who sees me as Jennifer. I've been here so long that much of Jenny has permeated me forever. When I return to the US, people often comment on how animated I have become, and how I talk with my hands. My mother loves the way I break my bread open right on table, and worry about cleaning up the crumbs later. My boys sit just like their father, with their long legs gracefully crossed in a pose that seems feminine and awkward on an American man, but that is unmistakabley European and beautiful on an Italian. And even though I am always in jeans and a tee shirt, you can bet my accessories match! It just happens that way over here...
My longing to finally return home and excitement/dread over my upcoming trip had so overshadowed everything else, that the attack of utter, weepy, mushy nostalgia I felt as I turned my car onto the peninsula that is Sirmione bowled me over. There was the first Italian supermarket I had ever set foot in, where I bought a fiasco of chianti for the first time. There was the little restaurant, still going strong, where my husband and I had dinner almost every night at midnight. He was working as a chef in those days, and would finish his shift at 11:30 and run back to our rented room to fetch me for dinner. I almost always ordered the same thing- spaghetti allo scoglio.
I parked my car and walked down the same sidewalk that I had walked everyday so many years before. And when I came upon the castle, I could see myself perched on the drawbridge (that's right, there's a real drawbridge and a moat) waiting for my husband to arrive. Our courtship was a scene straight out of a fairytale, mind you, and coming back to this one spot brought it all rushing back.
Back then as I waited, I would usually have a bag of bread or cookies to feed the swans.
As I entered the archway into the old town, I saw the restaurant where my husband was the chef during those years. It's the only restaurant located right in the castle.
My friend and I took a ferry to the far side of the lake. The weather was cloudy and gray, and I could just make out the shores of Gargnano, the so beautiful that you've fallen to sleep and are dreaming that you are walking around in a picturebook town where I spent my wedding night.
Even though I spent the entire day reminiscing my former life as Jennifer with my friend, I came away from that day with the memories of Jenny taking her first steps.
I smiled all the way home, and I am smiling right now as I write this.