Two Postcards From Italy

postcards and passport

My husband and I were grateful to take a 10-day vacation to visit Italy in June. With meticulous planning we scheduled each day to be an adventure in art, culture, history and of course food and wine. I had assumptions on how our trip would go,  I certainly was not planning the details below. Nonetheless our travels through Italy were a wonderful example of the reality of beauty alongside struggle in our everyday lives.

I guess it’s reassuring because I talk so much about it at home. How do moments of joy coexist with hardships? How do we coexist between the two?

At the Borghese Gallery I bought two postcards. I wrote on the back of the first one as I was sitting outside our apartment in Rome.

“It is our last full day in Rome. We toured the Coliseum and the Roman Forum this morning. Right now I am sitting atop the flat landing of the stairwell that leads to our apartment. My feet dangle, warmed by the sun that streams into the courtyard. Jasmine blooms cover the balcony and the neighbor’s white laundry hangs above. I hear the clanking of utensils on plates and the rolling chatter of Italian women. I believe this is what I like the most so far.”

rome door

All of the sensations were true and in that moment I was in such peace.

But I also felt in this instance that I needed to share the other side. One day I thought we would look back and laugh or at least remind ourselves that even in our most beloved times we had struggles.

The next morning on our way to Florence I pulled out the second card and wrote,

“But to be fair, I must share what was happening on the other side of the wall. After two days in Italy Hudson developed a terrible allergic reaction on his skin. We called an English-speaking doctor to see him at our apartment. After, I lay on the bed in distress, in part because I am concerned for Hudson and in part because I am exhausted and feel like I’ve been in a theme park of Italy. I much prefer the quiet strolls on cobblestone than the tourist lines. That evening we walk across the Tiber River to Trastevere for a quiet dinner. Today is a new day and we are on a train to Florence. If anything, this is a reminder that life exists in all its beauty, right alongside its flaws and shortcomings.”

Right after I wrote the first postcard the doctor arrived at our apartment. We were both frightened by the urgency the pharmacist requested the doctor visit my husband. He left us with a scribbled prescription on paper and a somewhat reassurance that Hudson would heal soon.

I cried. Hudson hugged me. We slowed down and rested that afternoon. The next morning we woke up before daylight and headed to Florence.

On the train we saw fields upon fields of sunflowers. We were met with a cool breeze as we departed from the train in Florence. It was the still quiet of the early morning as we walked into town. The uncomfortable struggles surely make the other moments shine. And of course we found our days in Rome to be utterly comical once Hudson healed and I had a breath of fresh air. 

What we went through in our first days of Italy was hardly a hardship but it was certainly not what we had planned (and if you know me, that's difficult for me to accept). The tension of reality. There is beauty and there is struggle and I don’t think we’d be the same without both. I was naïve to not prepare myself for both our on our vacation to Italy.  But then again, I am thankful for the growth that comes from experience.