Italy Days 11, 12 & 13: Celebrazione e famiglia

I’m writing Days 11-13 together because it was 1:30 in the morning before I went to bed Saturday night. Yesterday we were honored to attend my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. Like her parents, I’m so proud of all the work she put in towards this day, studying and preparing for the last three years.

The event started at 5pm with cocktails in the garden of Palazzo Corsini al Prato in Florence. The kids enjoyed running through the garden hedges and gathering the lemons that had fallen from the trees. We took family photos with our cousins and enjoyed the flowing Prosecco.

This was now my fourth bat mitzvah, so while I’m still not fluent in Hebrew, I am much better at following along. We sang and chanted in Hebrew, listened to readings from the Torah, and heard lovely words from family members. It was cold and windy by the end, with the wind blowing out the flame on the braided candle, but both my niece and the Rabi were unfazed.

After the ceremony there was another hour or so of cocktails and photos, but this time in both the garden and an interior room more like a night club. There was a great amount of space for the kids to run around and let off steam before sitting down for the three course meal.

I was psyched to see the photo booth… it was one of my favorite memories from my oldest niece’s bat mitzvah. The props were on point – complete with a statuette of David set to piss off a few Texans.

One smart thing we did, all credit going to my sister for the idea, was to hire a babysitter to attend the event with us and look after #1LittleSister. She was also there as a back up plan in case anyone needed to go home early – we wouldn’t all have to leave the event. It turned out we didn’t need that backup plan as the kids were in full-on party mode. Anytime I set #1LittleSister down in a room that wasn’t the dance floor, she made a B-line back towards the music and lights. That girl loves a party.

One of the most impressive event of the evening was the performance art show of building the dessert. Four men laid layers of wafer, piped gallons of creme and poured chocolate chips in distinct layers to create a giant cannoli. It not only looked impressive but was delicious.

The DJ played great music – a mix of American pop hits set to discoteca type club tracks. I was caught off guard when a pounding track with a euroclub beat turned out to be the hippest version of hava nagila ever heard. Up went my nieces in chairs into the air. Somehow my sister skipped out on flying high this time around.

Lounge at Palazzo San Niccolo

We lasted til just after 11 and left the dance floor full. By the time we got home, got everyone to bed and packed up for our morning departure it was nearly 2 am. The next morning we were to be at the garden of Palazzo San Niccolo for a send off Easter brunch.

The garden setting was perfect for Easter. Casual, airy, with wisteria in full bloom. The food was excellent and surprisingly kid-friendly. My kids are fruititarians, so they were in heaven.

The brunch started with an Easter egg hunt. The caterer laid out simple white baskets and hid chocolate eggs all around. The kids were elated. We’d done an egg hunt at our house before leaving for Italy as we weren’t sure what traditions to expect. I can only hope they don’t expect two egg hunts again next year. $50 says #1BigSister remembers and calls me out on it next April.

It was nice to have just that little bit of extra time to spend with family and talk in a more quiet setting. After losing my dad and his brother in the last 14 months, I’m reminded how little time we have with some people. Yes, you’d think as a part of my job I would know that because I see it play out everyday… unexpected car crashes, seemingly benign pain that turns out to be cancer… but somehow I think I’d lost part of that awareness you get when you touch death regularly. I hadn’t actually realized I’d fallen into it until just now as I type this out actually… which makes me feel a bit of shame… because that’s always been one of the greatest gifts of my job. Perspective. To keep that focus on what truly matters. It’s why I left my last career. And here I am taking it for granted again.

TeamLouka + G

For me, and I know Amir as well, travel is the reason we work as hard as we do, trudge through some of the monotony and the grind of those other days. Yes, those little mundane moments are beautiful in their own messy sort of way, but sometimes beautiful is just beautiful, too. I like to mix it up.

We’re on our way home and contemplating our next adventure. Last Christmas we discussed a change in tradition – instead of the pilgrimage home to Virginia Beach – perhaps a trip to London since half the family lives on that side of the Atlantic. But… that would mean giving up that tradition for at least this year… which wouldn’t have to be forever, but sometimes forever comes before you expect it.

So I’m not sure. But I do know this trip has been like a marathon… I’m not going to lie and say it’s been as rosy as my posts may seem. It’s been painful, long, difficult at times – but full of moments that recharged us. And as we approach the finish line on flight 2 of 3, I feel that sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and purpose. I’m still going to give it some time to decide about London though. I’m not sure this is the right time for big decisions.


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