I love Lucy
Looking at my watch, I realized he would never make it on time. Why of all days did he schedule a face lift the same day that he had to perform the wedding ceremony? Walking over to the ceremony grounds to translate for the American bride, I was asked by the Italian photographer to inform the bride that the sun would be too bright at 5 and maybe the ceremony should be moved to 6. The bride agreed. The photographer then added that it would not make much of a difference so she could keep the ceremony at 5. I didn’t translate his last comment and informed the bride, great idea, shall move it to 6:00.
Back to the house I made a quick call to his cell when being informed he was but minutes away, suggested he not rush driving since the ceremony had been moved to 6. Shortly there after the guests watched as my husband dressed in his surgical garb, dash through the front door, ran up the stairs to change. Questioning followed, as to what’s with the surgeon? I quickly followed him up the stairs to avoid further discussion, with a quick response stated “ he is the priest”. There were a few laughs along with a gentlemen’s comment, “is this halloween?”
A short time later the surgeon, minister, my husband, appeared before some 100 guests, dressed in his dark formal suit, tie, and minister’s sash on the grounds of Villa Lucia in Montevettolini, Italy, to give his usual monologue. “Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to welcome all of you here on this lovely day under the Tuscan sun, traveling distances to join” Ms — and Mr — “ on this special occasion of the celebration of their marriage .”. .After so many occasions, the monologue memorized by my husband needed no rehearsing, other than to insert a change in the names of the couple to be married.
Many of our guests often asked during the last 25 years, how I managed to get Orange County California’s popular plastic surgeon in the 80’s with a 6 month waiting list for an office appointment to come to Italy. Seeing him pick olives, chuck peas, clean fava beans, can tomatoes, stamp grapes, make jam, serve cappuccinos, cook, serve, and clean up after each dinner party and help serve breakfast in the morning, leaves our guest perplexed.. Then having passed his Italian medical boards, written and oral, he takes care of his American patients that fly to Italy for a little tuck.. He came close to not taking the test when he was told he would have to read the 1200 page book on Italian law, needless to say, in Italian. But, I voiced my disappointment.. I lived with him for 45 years to be sure he would be there when my twinkle lines deepen to folds of wrinkles. When asked the frequent question, “ doc, what are you doing here?” he would always answer what so many of our guest have heard him say, “ I love Lucy”.
The pragmatist and the romanticist.
Italy may not be an ideal country for all. For me, an Italian American who loves everything about the country, left California social life to become a farmer. Our boat was replaced by a 75 horse powered tractor. My walk-in closet is now an armoire to serve two. The deck on our water front home that I could hose down in minutes is a 15 acre olive grove needing daily attention. Cocktail parties with socialites are now barbecues with the farmers. Stored cocktail dresses finding no use, are packed in the back of the armoire hidden by my daily attire of jeans, tee-shirts, and sweatshirts. My farm boots are all in easy reach, leaving to collect dust are those Saturday night high heal shoes of yesterday.
To determine when my love for Italy began, my thoughts bring me back to visiting my maternal grandparents as an 8 year old with my parents. My older sisters attending high school in Connecticut, could not miss school. It was shortly after the war. Poverty was evident along with the ruins from bombings recorded in all our photos, but for an 8 year old, my only memories are of an abundance of joy, laughter, happiness with an extended family spoiling me with love and attention. Every day seemed like a holiday. Everyone in town seemed to be related . Most were related considering my mother was one of 14 and dad one of 9. Their siblings continued the prolific pattern of extending their family for additional farmhands. I cried when it came time to leave, and promised my cousins that I would return.
For Jorge, my Argentinian husband of Spanish and Czechoslovakian descent, life in Italy was far from perfect and not his choice compared to his life in Southern California. As an 8-year-old in Argentina, he was a proficient reader and favored books describing that wonderful land to the North, everyone’s dream, the great USA. At age 27, as a young Argentinian doctor, he came to the new world to fulfill his dream. Shortly after, and happily settled in the USA, he completed 8 additional years of medical residency, passed all his written and oral surgical boards, the speciality boards and believed his dream fulfilled. But shortly after we met he ascertained that his American wife wanted to return to her roots and live La Dolce Vita in Italy.
As an American, raised by Italian immigrant parents with European traditional values, I worked hard with little resources to climb my ladder to success, but always felt a void in my life, something that I never experienced when in Italy. The USA gave me everything I have and love: my family, husband, friends, education, values, principles, work ethics, and organizational skills. But my heart, soul, emotions,and spirit, I guess one might say, my DNA is Italian. I experienced this again when on a university scholarship program in 1961, studying the Catholic Communist Crisis in Italy when it had the largest communist party outside of the Iron Curtain. Following my completion of my studies I wished to remain but my parents adamantly opposed. They compromised with me by suggesting a possibility after graduating from college.
With the approval of my parents following graduation I found employment in Rome at the USIA offices. Nobody would change these plans, so I thought. Shortly before my planned departure I met my prince and future husband. Again my plans were delayed. He had no objection and agreed I should go, but “not now”. Never would I imagine that “not now” would be 25 years later. We were fortunate to have been able to visit Italy on a number of occasions but that was not what I wanted. He understood holidays. I wanted to live there. We both agreed it was best to wait for our children to finish their studies. I finally fulfilled my dream, but this time unplanned due to unforeseen circumstances.
When an unexpected detour in my life closed a door, I was forced to search and managed to find a window open. It could only be the decision of the Divine. As I was sadly packing some of our 500 books in our library, having to depart from our water front home of 29 years, Richard Bach’s novel, Jonathan Seagull fell to the floor, leading me to read it for the second time while taking a pause in my cleaning and packing. By leaving his flock, I read how Jonathan was able to distance himself away from his ordinary life, and by doing so gain a better understanding of what might be missing in his life. Being a workaholic living on two speeds, faster and faster, I was seduced by my work. It was nobody’s fault but my own. Living in a consuming culture, it is easy to lose sight of what is important in life. I thought of my Italian dad’s words which I have often heard from others in Tuscany, “ never allow your occupation to become work” if you want to enjoy life. It may be hard to do, but it depends on how much one may want to make a change in life. With little financial resources, having signed a personal guarantee that caused us to lose our home, I worked alone to empty our home. Criticized by many of my peers and family, like Jonathan, decided to embark on my new life.
Jorge, as a surgeon, perfectionist, pragmatist, practicing efficiency every minute of the day, views the world in black and white without a tinge of grey. He found in America all that he ever wanted and could never find in Argentina or Italy. He loved his life in California, with the many flavors offered even if never having time to taste them, but they were there. Bringing him to Italy was like bringing him back to Argentina, a step backwards in his judgment. His pragmatism made adjusting to Italy very difficult. I had experienced years before similar situations when trying to bring American culture to Italy but soon learned to adjust to the Italian culture and leave the American culture for Americans. It is only then that one can begin to appreciate that which is Italian. It took him years but in doing so it gave me many stories to tell of the difficulty of a very pragmatic man to enjoy the romanticism of Italy.
I give credit to my husband who finding himself out of his element, cutting onions instead of people, he has become my robocoop. Being Lucy’s husband instead of the respected Dr Luhan, he hands me kitchen tools as his surgical nurse in the past handed him instruments. Because he stuck it out with me in Italy, I have many stories to tell. Our 500 year old abandoned house needing a roof, became our home, enriching us with a treasure chest of wonderful memories, meeting friends from around the world, and able to share with others life under the Tuscan B&B.