Weekend report: Christmas markets and board games

After a 2020 full of covid and a 2021 still full of covid but also of other mild to moderate family-related traumas, I had been looking forward to this weekend away with my Italy friend crew with much anticipation, and it did not disappoint. Unfortunately I skidded into Friday evening somewhat exhausted but satisfied after another overly full week of work and then a few hours trekking around Parma after work sourcing the perfect birthday items for my best friend. I plopped into bed on Friday evening wishing that I had a) some time to myself to just exist and regain energy before the weekend, b) enough time to catch up on sleep before leaving, and c) time to pack my weekend bag in a leisurely manner, but I had none of those things.

However, I managed to awake on Saturday reasonably well-rested, in enough time to pack decently well, and with my good mood and anticipation about the weekend fairly restored. From there, the weekend proceeded to be wonderful, including:

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Italy-side Holiday Fun List

Taking inspiration from Laura Vanderkam’s seasonal fun lists and also from my own embryonic “lists of fun things to do during X time” from… basically as soon as I knew how to write (my mother likes to tease me about a strictly timed list of fun things to do on a Snow Day from elementary school that I militantly attempted to enforce on her and my brother; it resulted in a meltdown on my part because they failed to adhere to my – admittedly ambitious – schedule), here I am with my list of fun things I’d like to do during holiday season, part 1 (part 2 will be back at my parents’ house in the US).

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A catching up post for the first weekend of fall

Is it actually the first weekend of fall? Ehm… no. Did I at least manage to land on the first day of October? Also no! However… we’re all just doing the best we can here, and the first two weeks of teaching back in person completely clobbered me, to say the least. In fact, the last several months and the entire summer kind of clobbered me. So. I’m naming this the first weekend of fall for me personally, and hoping for good things from it. First, though, let’s catch up! Things that have happened in the past two weeks include:

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The Last Night

The last night at home always comes so much more swiftly than I think it will. I love the first night, when my long-planned trip stretches ahead of me. There is usually some kerfuffle to find my sheets (a mystery – why can’t I keep track of them from one trip to the next?) and there is unpacking, and sleep-deprived mildly surreal conversations with my parents over snacks that sit strangely in my stomach. There is that first glorious shower after the long flight, and unpacking because I like to have all my clothes nestled into their home-time dresser and my suitcase stowed away and out of sight; I don’t want to be reminded that I will have to leave again all too soon.

The last night always comes all too soon. The days flit away, heedless of my attempts to hold them back, my mind grasping and snatching at thin air. To no avail. I count down the last few full days, their poignancy mounting as each one passes. The last trip to the mall, the last trip downtown, even the last trip to the recycling center takes on the weight of impending nostalgia.

I start to gather things that are mine. My glasses had taken up residence in the cupholder of my mother’s car, my sunglasses and my earbuds on an end-table near the door where they are easy to grab on the way out for a walk. I deposit my little presents for next-trip me: toothpaste and a new pack of toothbrush heads, pads and tampons, sometimes even a can of soup or some frozen Kind bars in the freezer (not this time, though – I just ate the last one!). I lug the suitcase back out and fill it, trying to stuff this feeling of home, familiar and safe and beloved, in among the socks and books and Reese’s candy (can’t find it in Italy), but you can’t capture it. Somewhere between the floor of my childhood bedroom and unzipping the suitcase on the other end, it evaporates and I am left hollowed out with homesickness.

I always recover from it (and, indeed, am always sad for whatever season is ending whenever I am on my way back here, be it summer in Italy or pre-Christmas festivities) but from where I sit now, in my cozy chair in my beloved childhood home with the wind swishing through the trees I’ve loved all my life, the travel day and the first few days back in Europe stretch ahead, lonely and disorienting. The last night in my cozy bed – the best bed in the whole world, I swear it! – the last morning in my cozy chair, the last hours here in this house with my beloved parents, ever more conscious that my time with them is not infinite… it’s hard.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be like this, if I hadn’t chosen this type of life, with the pins of my heart tacked firmly into several quite distant parts of the map. Would I have lived around the corner, and had so much time with my parents I wouldn’t even notice it? Would I have lived somewhere else in the US, and would weekends stolen back at home been all the more rare because of limited US vacation times? Would I somehow still have arrived at 35 and the awareness that my time with my parents is not forever, and so every dinner, every coffee, every weekend with them is precious? Or would it have taken longer? I’ll never know, of course, but I think about it sometimes. I often want to ask some of my friends who stayed in the US if they are as aware of time passing as I am. I assume so, although I must admit that twice yearly visits really highlight the passing seasons and fleeting years.

For now, I will finish my work while trying to soak in the precious sound of the wind in the trees with at least some part of my brain. I will clean up the kitchen and lovingly wipe down those counters until next time, and prepare my coffee for tomorrow morning. I will sip my coffee trying to absorb the peace and familiarity of my room and not think too much about the impending rush. Then there will be the impending rush, and eventually I will shut that door, and try to stopper my heart against the feelings of time passing and things ending, and by this time tomorrow night I will be a third of the way across the ocean, and that much closer to the other part of my life.

Non-midyear Goals Check

Well… I definitely wasn’t in the mood to do a goals check at midyear. We had just found out about my dad’s cancer, my grandmother was in the hospital again, and I was scrambling to catch up on work and prepare for exams so I could at least take one or two of the three or four I’d originally planned. However! The end of August will mark 2/3 of the year, and that’s coming up in a week or so… so really there is no actual specific date attached to this goals check, but I feel inspired to do it, so here goes!

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The Last Time

We moved into the new place officially last week (hooray!), and when the Partner loaded up our bikes on the back of his car to take them over there, I thought how we hadn’t ridden them in a while and that it was funny – at some point, we took a ride on them through the neighborhood of the old apartment, and came home and probably had a shower, and put up our helmets and propped up the bikes, and that was the last time we would ever ride around that neighborhood, but we didn’t know it.

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The month of self-care

During our 3-day vacation at the beach, in between devouring books like ravenous beast, I decided that July will be the Month of Self Care. In the past six months, I have: finished earning the down payment on our apartment; obtained a teaching contract at a new university; just about completed the second year of my masters’; trained to be a speaking examiner for a second international English exam; purchased the aforementioned house; and zipped home to the US to support my father through the removal of his bladder cancer. It has been a damn busy time. One thing I have not done is conceived a child. These 3 days at the beach were well-deserved, but it occurs to me that perhaps that whole thing about stress impacting the likelihood of conception is a Real Thing. Hence: the Month of Self Care. I will exercise, by enjoying meditative walks around the burgeoning countryside! I will eat healthy food, which I will cook in a relaxed manner while listening to podcasts. I will give myself leisurely reading breaks. I will reconnect with friends in this reprieve from the pandemic. I will calmly and methodically move my possessions into the new house, resulting in an organized and peaceful space. It will be delightful and restorative.

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Little happy moments: Mornings at the old apartment

We’re getting verrrry close to moving into the new apartment (!!) minus one small kink: there is no electricity there yet. I’ve been so focused on getting all of our stuff moved over there and organized, and the fact that the electricity has not been activated yet (despite the fact that we were assured that it totally would be, seriously don’t even worry about it, ragazzi) that I sort of haven’t even processed that once we move, we won’t come back to this other apartment any more. I mean… obviously. But we have spent almost a full year going to the new place on weekends and in spare moments to check on its progress, first as a construction site and then as one or the other of us moved a few items or unpacked a few boxes, that it almost feels like playing house over there. It doesn’t yet feel like we will sleep there (probably also because our mattress is still here) and have breakfast there and start our workday there and look out those windows and not come back here and look out these windows anymore. (Yes, I definitely have some sort of thing with windows.)

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Random bullets of Saturday

  • There doesn’t appear to be anything weird on my dad’s kidneys. Hooray! Except it makes me nervous to actually celebrate this too much before the official doctor’s appointment on Monday, so let’s go with a very small and tentative: hooray?
  • I found out I probably won’t need to quarantine upon returning to Italy after all, so I pushed back my flight by a few days so I can take my parents to that appointment on Monday. I’m not-so-secretly hoping that they’ll actually let me in to listen to the diagnosis, etc., so I can take notes. That’s a thing, right? The offspring serving as a sort of secretary for parents at a certain point in their lives? My parents are still quite spry and absolutely lucid, but still. I’d find it comforting and also feel it would maximize efficiency. We shall see.
  • I am missing the partner and also feeling sad to be missing out on this theoretically lovely time of release from the school year and from the pandemic into a cheerier summertime, when we would also be happily moving into our new place… but it’ll come. Just another few days later. Have to take what comes sometimes, right?
  • Speaking of having to take what comes, I got my period. It was two to three days late and my temperature was still up on all three of those mornings, so a little (medium) glimmer of hope had definitely started to form. I’d even mentioned it to my mom yesterday morning, just a few hours before it all turned out to be a false alarm. Sigh. Maybe next month?
  • The cicadas are still out and I somehow find them very… comforting? Grounding? Reassuring? I don’t know, but for some reason I’m glad to hear them every morning when I make my way back up to the surface of consciousness. I think I will associate their bizarre sound (to me, they sound like several car alarms going off in the distance) with this also bizarre interlude… here in America at a time of year when I am usually not, getting my first glimpse of what the parent/child role reversal will look like… in limbo but hoping for good news for my dad, not ready to face the alternative.

Photo: A cute little chipmunk from my last walk. A cicada photo would obviously be more appropriate, but I don’t have one, and this little guy surveying the slightly gloomy, very humid, trying-to-be-summer landscape feels very apt.

Friday report: I can’t even believe this week

Dear Internet, I think coffee might be magic. I mean, I guess it’s technically a drug and lots of people think drugs are magic, so… the logical conclusion is that I should also try other drugs? Probably not (I’m really tired; there is a strong possibility my brain is not at 100%, or even like, 43% right now).

Anyway, listen to this week and then I will tell you why coffee is magic. (I mean, okay, chances are you already know, but whatever.) So, this was another week of mad intensity to crown the previous weeks of mad intensity, culminating in the final exam for one of my very favorite courses for my masters’ program this morning. Let’s cycle back to the start of the week to examine this madness properly – I feel like I will want to look back on this when I look in the mirror and wonder why I look way older and more decrepit than I should right now.

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