Friday, February 17, 2012

Getting married: Fine dining in Minnesota

I'm glad Leif loves me, because I suck at picking people up at the airport. If you read my post on getting married you know that it was touch and go for awhile. I finally found him and got him bundled into the car and you'd think that would be enough excitement for one day but no...since this little adventure technically spanned two day (beginning before midnight and ending sometime after that) the drive home deserved its own moment of glory.

He was hungry. Airlines no longer offer you snacks and beverages. I don't know if they're trying to save on money or weight, but snacks were one of the things airlines decided weren't necessary for passenger comfort. He was a little peckish. We decided to look for somewhere to eat when we reached the northern suburbs.

Do you know what's open in the northern suburbs at 2 am? Almost nothing. Gas stations and Perkins. I didn't think his introduction to Minnesota eating should be 24 hour old hot dogs at a Holiday Station so we opted for Perkins.

It was rocky from the start. The first question "Can I get you something to drink?" got a "Yes, water with bubbles," from Leif. As our 18 (she looked 12) year old waitress's jaw dropped and her eyebrows started to climb up her forhead I quickly told her tap water was fine. She relaxed and walked away as I explained to Leif that it was only in the best restaurants that a customer could get water with bubbles. And Perkins is not in the best category.

We decided on soup because it was the wee hours of the morning and we would have to have breakfast with my parents in a few hours. When she came back with our water (sans bubbles) we asked what the soups were today. And she told us that there was no soup. We weren't prepared for that answer so we asked her to come back in a couple of minutes. How does a restaurant run out of all their soups? If I can get breakfast all day I should be able to get soup all day. And my over-the-top reaction to the news confirmed that I was starving too. Time to regroup and decide what we would have that wasn't soup.

Next to Leif there was a giant (placemat sized) laminated sign for chicken pot pie that looked absolutely fantastic. When our waitress came back we said we'd like the chicken pot pie because it looked so good on the sign. I swear, she rolled her eyes as she told us that, too, was gone for the day. I don't know if the eye roll was for us and our inate ability to pick out everything on the menu that was gone or if it was for the people in the kitchen who couln't keep the menu filled for her. Didn't matter to me at that point. I gave her my sternest (but just short of homicidal) look and said, "Come back."

We huddled over the menu, desparately trying to strike a balance between our hunger, our future breakfast and what we thought might actually be available. I can't even remember what we decided on anymore, I was so hungry. But I do remember all three of us sighing deeply when we ordered and she didn't have to tell us no again.

By this time we were the only customers left in the place. As she put our plates down she gestured towards the door and told us if we needed anything she'd be outside. It's winter. The only thing people in the middle of a work shift go outside for is a smoke break. I choked back a smart remark about checking her ID to see if she was old enough to smoke and let her leave. I was mesmerized by the smell coming from my plate, the lecture on the evils of smoking could wait till later.

Thank goodness the rest of the meal, and the drive home went off without a hitch. We tiptoed into the house and snuck up the stairs (conveniently located right next to my parents room) for a couple of hours sleep before breakfast. It wasn't a perfect introduction to eating in Minnesota but it was definitely memorable.

I'm not depressed, I'm homesick.

What better way to follow up an emotional purge of my belongings than to watch a movie set in my new home country? A country that I don't know when I can return to. The country where my love and new husband is living, waiting for me.

 Wait, did I say better? I meant (probably) worse. I had been feeling strange lately and I thought it was just because I have been going through all my things from the last umptyzillion years but it only took one 10 saecond view of the Duomo in Florence during the movie Under the Tuscan Sun for me to realize what was wrong.

The second I saw the Duomo I reacted. I couldn't heart started to pound in my eyes felt hot...and suddenly I was crying. Something I never do. OK, something I rarely do.

I watched the rest of the movie, cried, stopped breathing every 5 minutes and realized that I am so homesick for Florence that I really don't know what to do. Seeing Italy and hearing Italian makes me sad (so very sad). But at the same time it is such a comfort to me to hear Italian spoken and to see the cities and countryside of Italy.

So you tell me, people. What do I do? Treat any movie with any references to Italy like poison and avoid them? (because I'm stuck here for the foreseeable future) OR look for every Italian movie I can find and invest in several boxes of Puffs? (because Italy is where my heart is and I don't want to forget how much I need to be there)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How do I fit 50 years into two suitcases and a carry on?

Obviously, the answer is you don't. It's impossible. So the big question is what to do with all the stuff that doesn't make the cut? Most of us tuck it into a box and put it away for someday when we have the space for it again. I've done this way, way, way too many times. This time I have to do things differently.

I have spent the last couple of days going through my past. Like everyone I know, I have old pictures and mementos from trips, school pictures and awards, silly card and serious ones, my toys and my kids toys, my absolute favorite books and some I bought to read "when I had time." And being an artist means I also have a stash of random objects that could become something beautiful when the inspiration comes upon me. I can't leave all these things in my parents house because life is funny and I don't want to leave anyone else the task of deciding what to keep and what to throw away. Or (God forbid) trying to do it over the phone.

I knew it would be boring and time-consuming and dusty. I knew that before it would all go away it would in fact explode all over my mother's nice clean house. I didn't know that it would be so difficult, this sifting through time and generations and images and words. I had no idea that I had kept so much and I had no idea that it would be such an emotional thing for me to do.

Not all of it is difficult. I thoroughly enjoy sorting through pictures of my children at all their ages. It's funny how just looking a single second from 20 years ago can actually bring the whole day back. The weather, the food, the reason for the picture. Zach's second Christmas was one of those pictures. You see a kid in blue footie pajamas hunched over something while his grandpa watches. I see Zach playing the Fisher-Price xylophone he got, inexpertly hitting the bars with the mallet. He would start at the lowest note and work his way up the keyboard, hitting every bar and smiling when it sounded. One bar didn't resonate like the rest and every time he hit it he would stop, cock his head to one side and get a puzzled look on his face. He'd start at the bottom again only to be stopped again at the strange sounding bar. He is the first grandchild so naturally we all just sat and watched him do this over and over again, laughing at the very adult and oh-so-serious look on his face when his music didn't sound right. That is a happy memory.

The not-so-happy memories come from reminders of past loves. Those are harder to look at because I already know the ending, so I know those happy faces will one day be sad and angry and hurt. And I'm powerless to stop it.

The last few days have been like watching The Titanic. Because the ending isn't some kind of mystery but a certainty. Every moment, even the joyful and the incredibly romantic ones, are tinged with foreboding and  sadness. Right from the beginning it's apparent that everyone who survives will be changed and I'm sad for those faces that I love because I know that they will cry and scream and lose themselves before they find a new way to live.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Getting married: The groom arrives in Minnesota

I suppose you want to know about the wedding. It was purposely very small and very private and to me it was very perfect. But the story really needs to start two weeks before the wedding, when Leif arrived from Italy and burst into the welcoming arms of me and my family.

On Monday January 9th I got up and made a list of the things I needed to do in the next two days to get ready for Leif's arrival at 10:30pm on Tuesday. I was prepared. I would be ready. Then his sister Ingela called me Monday afternoon and said that Leif was on the plane now." He says you have to pick him up tonight, not tomorrow night. OK?"

There went all my beautifully laid plans. No relaxed schedule where I would have time to take care of myself as well as get things ready for my fiance. Oh no, now I had to rush to take a shower and get down to The Cities early (remember, I haven't driven much in the last year) and find him at the airport 24 hours earlier than I thought. But being the totally flexible and not-easily-rattled woman that I am (really, I am) I managed to get down there more or less calmly and on time.

I waited by the baggage carousel for his flight, nervous and excited to see him again after almost a month apart. People started coming up to the carousel, taking their bags and leaving. I scanned every face. Even the women and children, just in case. What if I didn't recognize him? I know, it's only been a  month, but as the minutes ticked by and I still didn't see him I started to worry that I had missed him somehow.

The bags had stopped dropping down from God knows where and I didn't see his suitcase. I started to worry more. Now I faced the possibility that he wasn't even on the flight he was supposed to be on. And he didn't have a phone. He couldn't even call me to tell me where he was, assuming that the TSA or whatever other agency that had illegally and unnecessarily detained him would even let him call. See where my mind goes? The airline people that were still at work by baggage claim (everything closed at 8 it seemed) said that they couldn't give me any information about a specific passenger, but that his intended flight had landed, which I already knew, damn it. The paging system was closed for the day, so I couldn't have him paged to meet me somewhere. The ticket counters were closed and wouldn't you know it, I couldn't find a single phone number I could call to get more information. I panicked and naturally called my mother, who told me to call my first husband because he always seems to have ideas (something that is usually on the negative side of his personality when she talks about him).

So yes, I called my first husband, who did in fact have several great ideas and the time to research sources and numbers for me while trying to talk me down from the ceiling. A few frazzled and emotional calls later I found out that Leif could possibly but not definitely be on the next flight which was set to arrive in 5 minutes. Could I hold on that long? Sure, that was long enough to imagine my love in a cold grey room with a giant one-way mirror on the wall and steely-eyed agents from some government organization who reports to no one questioning him about his intentions here in our beloved US of A.

I was no longer rational, I know that now. But hey, it was after midnight, I'd been at the airport for over two hours racking up astronomical parking fees and wearing a groove in the floor pacing back and forth beside the baggage claim area. And having lengthy phone calls with my first husband who said nice things like "don't worry, we'll find him. Wouldn't want him to miss the wedding!" Beyond weird. I practically tackled the poor man when he came down the stairs. But that's all right, I kissed him about a million times and I think that made everything better.

And I just realized that although I started this post out with veiled threats to talk about the wedding I haven't even reached that point in the story. Either I'm including way too much information that is totally irrelevant to the story and probably ruins it for most of you, or most of what I put down makes the story just that much better. Because it's my blog I'm going to assume the latter at this point and talk about the actual wedding next time. Think of it as a poorly planned and executed cliff-hanger. It's no surprise to anyone that we do in fact end up married.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Those missing weeks

Wow. I've been gone from here for a very long time. I stopped writing because originally this blog was for my family and friends in Minnesota and since I came back to Minnesota for a visit I guess I thought there wasn't any reason to write.

A couple of days ago I thought "Oh no, what about all those other people who read and aren't in Minnesota? They probably want to know what I'm doing here." I doubt that's true, but just in case I'll put down a brief history of what I've been doing while I'm in Minnesota. So for my friends far away and my friends here in Minnesota that I haven't had the chance to connect with, here is a summary of what I've been doing since the middle of December.

I arrived back in Minnesota on December 16th. There  wasn't much snow but it was pretty cold. Well, to me it was really, really cold, but I live in a mostly Mediterranean climate now. I miss it. It would be nice if it would actually snow, I mean really, if it's going to be cold it should be white out there too. On the other hand it has been wonderful to travel to see friends without dangerous roads and freezing temperatures.

I've been staying with my parents. They have been gracious and thoughtful and I couldn't ask for a better situation than I have right now. But I am 50 years old. It feels strange to be living with my parents again, albeit briefly. I started out on the couch because my room upstairs was cold and the couch is right in front of a lovely fireplace. When Leif came we moved upstairs because the couch isn't a hide-a-bed and the floor is uncomfortable and covered in a carpet circa 1979 (I kid you not).

Since Leif left again for Italy I move between the two rooms. It's like visiting another place, if you have an active imagination. Which I do. When I'm downstairs I'm at a cozy little B&B. When I'm upstairs I'm at a lake cabin, complete with old posters on the wall and furniture the family didn't want in the "company" parts of the house and boxes of stuff too good to throw away but not nice enough to use. Throw in some cobwebs and dust and Asian beetles tastefully cocooned in paneling and you've got every cabin north of Motley. It's like going on vacation.

I spent the weeks before Leif arrived sewing my wedding dress. Yes, I may in fact be crazy, but the nice kind of crazy. I finished the dress with days to spare (thank you very much) which was good because there's a lot to do getting ready for a wedding.

Leif came here for three weeks in January. I think I'll write that up separately. It's definitely more than a footnote to the visit here and deserves to be told in detail and with pictures. I'm looking forward to writing it.

Since he left on Monday I have been feeling weird. Jet-lagged, almost. Tired and a little nauseous and cranky and headachey. .I think I'm lonely. I'm homesick because home is in Florence now. I'm sorry if that upsets people who consider Minnesota my home because I grew up here. I could trot out some tired phrase like "home is where the heart is" and my heart is in Florence, but even that isn't totally true.

My past and everything that makes me who I am is in Minnesota. But my present and who I am becoming are in Florence. I can't wait to get back there. The longer I'm here the more I realize that this is true. But until I can leave I'm going to enjoy the hell out of Minnesota and my family and my friends. I promise to write about those things that can be shared.