buon natale

Where does my heart belong, where does my soul find peace? Where is home when home is constantly changing? Where is a heart, where is a person, where are one’s thoughts when the world is constantly shifting? Where, where, where? Here. Here I am content. In a life I know I will look back on and envy. Here is pure, serene freedom. Here on this train, here in a new city, there with my thoughts, away with my fears as I clothe myself in the presentness of this very moment. This moment where I sit on this lonely train from Cadenazzo, Switzerland to Zürich. This moment when I hear the sound of the wind, I feel the swiftness of the train as it glides across the rough, bumpy train tracks. Here I sit, on to a new place, a new city. A new city with new faces, new buildings, and new experiences. I press on and embrace this time of blessing not only for myself but for all of you, readers. I hope to take you along with me. I hope you can catch a glimpse of the life of a nomad, a traveler, a vagabond.
My thoughts are everywhere at this moment. Some say good things are only so for awhile and must eventually come to an end. Though at first this saying may seem true, it is not. Though good experiences do inevitably come to an end, the memories, the thoughts, and precious moments can last a life time. I believe that love shared, the unity, and comfort one feels when with others, makes moments last a life time. Why is this? Because love defies time. This abstract idea, love, knows no adversity because despite miles and miles of distance, despite times of difficulties, and despite our human flaws, love prevails. Love is a force that has the ability to save lives, to heal hearts. So why am I talking about love when my title is “buon natale” one may ask? Because that is exactly why, because Merry Christmas stands for so much more than superficiality. It stands for love, for a time of kinship, a time of unification.
This Christmas was quite different from all others I have had. As a child I remember the smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies, of sweet frosting as I decorated the sweet treats, covering them in sprinkles. I remember the music, the joy, the laughs, the precious memories. The memories when my family, despite the trials of the year, all came together under a veil of love. I remember the brisk winter days, the cold wind that once brushed against my small, childish cheeks. I remember the smells of cinnamon, of evergreen trees, of the smoke of a fire. I remember the special, simple moments where my family would bundle up all together and watch a Christmas movie or share a meal. All of these memories, all of these moments of love and joy,will never leave me. Though my family has changed and it is no longer simply my mom and dad, myself and five siblings, but others too, I count it all as joy. The evolution of my family has been beautiful and I am so thankful for them. As you have read, Christmas and family are important to me. Yet, this Christmas, I was not with my family in America. Though apart from my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews, we were together in spirit.
This Christmas, like I spoke about in previous posts, I spent with my family from Milan. My second family in Milan is a testimony to the power of love, to the strength within a family. When my great grandfather, Giovanni left for America I’m 1904, our family, though worlds apart, remained in contact through letters and photos. In fact, the money from the work of Giovanni and his brother Frank, was sent back to Italy, with which my family built a home that has been lived in for three generations. I loved being in the home, it was so special!
Well, Giovanni and Frank had a sister named Pasquelina. Pasquelina was married and had a child named Maria. When Maria was married she had a child named Cesare. Cesare was married to Lidia, and they had two children: Monica and Silvia. This Christmas I spent with Cesare and Lidia, with Silvia, her husband Fabrizio and her son Emanuele. Also, with Monica, her husband Ricardo, and their 11-year-old son Umberto. These eight individuals are all so special to me and it was so great getting to unite my family here in Italy and my family in America. My family in Italy love their history and it was so special to them as well that I spent Christmas with them. From the first time I met them a little over one month ago, we had a connection. A connection through the love our families had for each other in the past, a love that surpasses all of time!
I arrived at Milano Centrale around 5:00pm on December 22. It took two hours, however, for me to find Emanuele and Silvia, due to miscommunication! That time in Milano Centrale was a bit overwhelming since I was exhausted, but it was well worth it! That night was quite relaxing, we had a sweet little dinner all together at Monica’s house (where I stayed) which was so special. Dinners in Italy last hours. And my family is no exception! First the antipasti, the first course (usually pasta), the second (salad or something similar), dessert, café (espresso), and finally a digestivi drink! Afterwards, I watched “The Christmas Carol” (in Italian) with Umberto. I quickly fell asleep but it was so nice to watch a movie all bundled up near a twinkling Christmas tree and a warm fire. The next morning I slept in and later headed to Silvia’s house where we cooked and prepared for Christmas! We all had dinner together at Cesare and Lidia’s house! I love that many of our days-everyday-was centered around meals together. Meals that were centered around love and community. After dinner, Silvia, Monica, Umberto, Emanuele, and I all headed to a movie called “Il Ragazzo Indivisible.” Though in Italian I understood the film completely and I loved it! Though there was a language barrier during my visit, I understood almost everything they said during our conversations and my study of the Italian language definitely helped with my linguistic ability! After five days with the family, I definitely feel more proficient than before! On Christmas Eve I opened the packaged I had received from my family one day prior and I found delicious peanut brittle (I waited until Christmas to open up the sweet gifts and to read the notes). I shared the peanut brittle with the family, it was so nice to have a taste of home (literally) with me on Christmas Eve! On Christmas Eve I also helped Monica prepare lasagna, it was so fun cooking with her, we made one entire vegetarian one for myself! They were so thoughtful and understanding since I don’t eat meat! All of the antipasti they made were new, vegetarian, recipes, it was the sweetest. That afternoon we had lunch at Silvia’s house where we spent a good deal of the afternoon! Afterwards we headed back to Monica’s house where we made sugar cookies! They had never had American Christmas cookies, so it was so fun to make them! Umberto and I did most of the cooking and baking, but everyone helped decorate the cookies! They turned out to be very good! The entire family came to Monica’s house for dinner and we then headed to midnight mass at a nearby church. They had told me there was a special Christmas choir, but I was not prepared for the beautiful music that I was blessed to listen to! Though the church was more modern and plain, the mass was beautiful. I loved listening to the amazing choir, the long vigil mass that was very long, seemed to me to end too soon! I could have listened to the music all night. One of my favorite songs is the classic song, “Hallelujah” it’s a song sung by many, one artist including Imogen Heap. Near the end of mass, after communion, the church sand the gorgeous song and it brought me so much comfort and peace.
That night I wore pajamas my mom had sent me in the Christmas package. At home, it is a tradition for all of the girls to get matching pajamas and wear them on Christmas Eve/Christmas day, so it was so special that overseas I got to keep the tradition going! Christmas morning I opened up the gifts my family sent me as Umberto excitedly opened up his gifts as well! The package from my family was not only filled with Christmas treats, new pajamas, new Christmasy socks, but also movies! They sent me two of my all time favorite Christmas movies “The Polar Express” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Sadly, the DVDs did not work in Italy since they are American discs, I will hopefully try to find somewhere to play them before the break ends! My mom also sent me another DVD that I think was trying to give me a hint, it was a four disc compact of different Nicholas Sparks movies. Is my mom trying to tell me something? I’m perfectly happy and content without romance in my life! But, really, it was a funny surprise, who knows maybe sometime I’ll really need a cheesy pick-me-up and the movies will be just the thing I need. Either way, it was a funny gift to open. After the gifts, I opened my notes from my family (I know I reversed the order but it’s because to me the true gifts from my family are their loving words). I received notes from my mom, dad, godparents, and my sisters Mariana and Juliana. The notes brought not only tears to my eyes, but when I translated them for Monica, she cried as well. The words from my parents were filled with so much love, as were those from my sisters. I know I. The future, when I am facing any difficulties I will read the notes from my family, and I’ll know everything will be alright. After presents and notes, I helped Monica, Ricardo, and Umberto prepare for the family, whom would come to Monica’s house later that afternoon. When the family came it was a joyous event! Ricardo’s brother and parents along with Fabrizio’s mother joined the Christmas celebration as well, which was so wonderful. Everyone was so sweet, caring, and so loving. We had our huge meal that lasted nothing short of four hours as we enjoyed each others company on the special holiday afternoon. Fabrizio’s mother made a traditional Italian Christmas bunt-shaped bread loaf for everyone, however because it has meat and cheese in it. She made me my own small little bunt-shaped loaf without meat. I could not believe it. She was someone I had never met, yet she selflessly went out of her way for me. After dinner we all watched the polar express in 3D (in Italian of course). It was funny for me to hear the different voices used for the characters in the Italian version of the movie. The family was so sweet, too sweet actually and they actually got me a gift. As if hosting me was not enough of a gift! They wrote the sweetest note to me and gave me a comfy, soft owl blanket! One that I am currently curled up in on this train! One of the most heartwarming moments was when Cesar and Lidia gave me a gift and a card. What was so special was that their card was written in English. They are both nearly 80 and don’t know any English, so for them to take the time to write me a note in my language, meant the world to me. It brought tears to my, Silvia’s. And Monica’s eyes as well.
The sweet note reads:
“Dear Amelia, this Mary Christmas for we are specialy- we hed to like to know you. We ere heppy to celebrate whit you this hope. Wishes your family- Mary Christmas- and many chiss for (you) we-!!!”
How sweet is that note? It warms my heart and makes me so so happy. I’m sure my grandparents would be so happy to see our family united! This note is such a sweet example of my family and our history- doing things for others though it might be hard for us. It was not easy for Lidia to write the sweet note, yet she still did. I love my family.
This Christmas passed with ever so much love and so much joy.
The day after Christmas, we all (except Cesare and Lidia) headed out quite early for a grotto or cave that was about an hour away. We went caving for about three or four hours! The cave was so beautiful, it was such a fun adventure crawling around, getting muddy, and looking at the beautiful fossils! After caving, we had lunch at a beautiful point where we overlooked various lakes and mountains. After lunch, we headed to the church and monastery of Saint Catherine di Sasso. Walking in the church was so sweet and the church and monastery are built alongside a gorgeous lake! We stayed in the church for a bit where I had a chance to think, pray, and to thank God for allowing me to have such beautiful people in my life. As we walked along the lake there was an amazing sunset filled with different hues of pink. It was absolutely enchanting. We also stopped by the small gift shop where Monica and Ricardo insisted on buying me the natural medicine that the monks made at the monastery to keep my immunity up and to give me more energy. It was so sweet of them, I cannot thank them enough for all of the kind things they have done for me. (This semester has definitely been hard on my body and I have been tired and making energy lately, it meant so much to me that they were so thoughtful). We then headed to a small restaurant run by the church and all had hot coco. It was by far the best hot coco I have ever had, without a doubt! It was not too thick, not too thin, perfectly sweet, creamy, and chocolaty! It was a perfect end to an amazing day. However, that was not the end of the day! That night, (last night), we headed back to Cesare and Lidia’s house where we all shared dinner. I truly felt apart of the family as we all sat together, ate, conversed, shared stories, and loved on one another. We even had time to call my dad, which up Cesare’s face, which gave me so much joy. Cesare has had a hard last couple of years since he had cancer near his mouth and had and large amount of his mouth removed in an extensive operation. It is hard for Cesare to both eat and talk. I love being in his presence. Though it can be hard understanding him, I am getting better, and I can know understand what he is saying. When he eats, everything must blended, I can only imagine how hard it is for Cesare since a large portion of their family time together is spent around the dinner table. Despite the difficulties Cesare faces he always brings me so much joy with his beautiful smile and I love hearing the stories about his exciting, adventurous life! He also loves playing pranks! On Christmas morning while I was helping in the kitchen he pretended to be on the phone with my dad and he said “Oh hi Tony Joe, yes Amelia is right here!” Lidia kept insisting it was not really my dad but I believed Cesare! He then reached into his pocket and pulled out an old photo of my dad, put his phone away, and started laughing. I began laughing too as I realized it was a little prank and his face lit up, it was such a moment of pure, sweet joy! Monica explained that Cesare loves to play jokes and I told her how my dad used to play jokes as well! We both agree it must be in our blood! We also agree that being adventurous must run in the family as I love adventure as does my entire Italian family, it is so special! I love that we are all so similar. Well, back to the dinner last night- it was wonderful and I cannot even begin to express how much my family means to me: both in America and in Italy! After dinner and lovely conversations we all kissed goodbye and headed out.
Today, December 27, has also been a great, very special day for me. When I woke up I began to pack my things, I found a USB in my package from my family. When I plugged the USB in I found videos from my family- videos for Christmas and of my sweet, adorable nieces and little wild nephew! Cara, Patrick, and Autumn even made me a video saying “Merry Christmas” and they also talked about how they missed me. I cannot believe how thoughtful they are and the fact that they took time out of their busy schedule to make me a video. Umberto, Monica, and I watched the videos in awe. I don’t know how I got so lucky with my amazing, loving family. Why me? Why am I so lucky to have them while others don’t have as loving of a family? I’ll never know, I know that for sure. But I do know that I am so thankful and I will continue to pray for and thank God daily for my family. After a peaceful morning together, we all headed out to Silvia’s house where we had a wonderful lunch. Monica even packed me up dinner and cookies for me to bring along with me today! How thoughtful of her!
This morning I wrote little notes for everyone and when I gave them to my family members they were received with so much love, thankfulness, and joy. I know, however, no thanks will ever be sufficient for all they have done for me and all the love they have so willingly given me. After lunch everyone headed with me to the station and Cesare and Lidia (who were not at lunch) met us at the Gallarate train station. The last minutes together we so so precious, I cannot stop replaying them in my mind… As I got on the train everyone waved goodbye to me with a smile and sweet little Umberto ran after the train. As the train raced away and my Italian family became small little black dots and eventually disappeared from sight, I was left filled with nothing short of pure joy and thankfulness. My scenic, restful journey today has only increased my joy. Also, the kind train attendant on my train to Zürich is a wonderful reminder that there is care and love everywhere in the world, even on a mid-afternoon, regional train ride. So, as I head towards the final leg of my winter break European adventure, I will go forward striving to love others and share this joy that has overtaken me.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

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