Yesterday was my husband's birthday. For the occassion, a group of his friends in Italy gathered around a computer and had a party for him via Skype, with a popping champagne bottle and everything. As I watched these people on the computer screen, I was so struck by their sameness. To me, it looked as if time had stopped, and these people were just as they were when I left Italy.
I then realized that mine was an absurb thought. Of course they were the same. I only left Italy 4 months ago. But the eternity I feel between now and that moment somehow hasn't rubbed off on others, and the sameness of those we left behind was striking.
Later I tried to remember my last day in Italy. And I can't. I can't rememeber closing my suitcases, the ride to the airport, the last family dinner, any teary goodbyes. I can't remember what the weather was like, if I slept or not on that last night, who I said my farewells to. I can't remember anything. The persistence of my memory has been getting progressively worse as I age, and this was the proverbial Italian colmo (apex, height of heights, can't get any worse!).
Maybe I need one of those horrible memory game boys that they advertise on television to scare people like me. Flash cards for grown ups. Memory is a tricky business for me. I've moved around alot in my life, making drastic, dramatic changes that transformed almost every aspect of my life along the way. Each place I have lived has its own specific flavors, colors, smells and sounds. The person I was in New York City looks to me like a character from a film. I can see her walking in my shoes down the sidewalk and sleeping in my bed in that basement apartment, but I'm not always sure she was really me. The same holds true for the other places I've lived. The places I've passed chunks of my life. There is an essence that comes to mind, and the details fall away. And nowhere is this more true than Italy, where I also lived as a foreigner in another language.
Did I used to remember more viscerally? I don't know. I don't remember... As I try to recall the tumultuous final days of my life in Italy, all I can see is Jenny. Jenny as she struggled to just be Jenny and not need so desperately to still be Jennifer. Jenny waking and walking and living a life that I now can only see as if in a slide show. Scenes from a long, struggling, unexpected and innately romantic story. Jenny in my shoes.