Summertime, as a child, is a magical time filled with lazy days doing fun things! I look back fondly on those days, before the responsibilities of adulthood set in, and sometimes something will trigger my memory and bring me back to those days. My fondest summer memories are those spent in Italy with my family. At the time, I probably didn’t want to go – I didn’t want to leave all my friends behind – but now, those are the summers that stand out in my memory! We stayed at my aunt’s house in Ispra on the shores of Lago Maggiore. I can still remember the smells of those summer days. They say that smell is one of the strongest memories, and I have to agree because there was a special smell that I only remember from those summers in Italy. Whenever I think about it, it makes me so happy and peaceful. Perhaps it was the smell of the country (growing up in San Francisco, country smells weren’t really ever present), but it was fresh and so pleasant. It seemed like every part of the day had a different smell – the mornings were fresh and pure, the afternoons were hot and you could smell the sun’s heat warming up the earth, and the evenings and nights almost had a perfume about them. I can remember sitting at my aunt’s table, with the veranda open to the air, and listening to the sounds of the neighbors talking, the roosters crowing, and the insects buzzing. My days were filled with lots of lazy, but also lots of fun. I do remember getting frustrated that the adults all took 2 hour naps after lunch when all I wanted to do was something! So, one summer, my aunt got me a kitten to entertain me. Oh how I loved that kitten, and we played all sorts of games! That poor kitten probably just wanted to rest as well during the heat of the full afternoon sun, but I didn’t let it! No mind, it didn’t complain too much 🙂
Most afternoons were spent at the lake swimming in the cool waters of Lago Maggiore. Of course, we had to wait the obligatory hour after eating before venturing out into the water, but because the days were so long, we spent many hours at the shore. And then came the best part….every day after swimming and cleaning up, we would visit the local bar where my parents would enjoy a glass of wine or a beer, and I would get my favorite afternoon snack – a limonata and a “panino” filled with “prosciutto cotto” and cheese! Yum…I can still taste the goodness of the bread and the sweetness of the prosciutto! It was like being in heaven. Why is it that the memories of food eaten as a child are always so strong?
The evenings were always spent with my grandmother in her very cool apartment. She would have kept the windows and shades closed during the day to keep out the heat, and so her place was always cool and refreshing. The cold marble on the floors also helped! She would cook us a meal every night and we would spend several hours with her. Sometimes I would even spend the days with her when my parents wanted to visit their friends. She taught me how to embroider and crochet, and I enjoyed that time spent with her.
I walked so much when I went to Italy. We used to take the paths through the “pratti” or fields to get from my aunt’s house to the town center or to the lake – these were my favorite outings. When I went back there 4 years ago, after not having been there for almost 30 years, I took my family for the same walks. I was happy to find that I could remember them so easily and that they were mostly still all there!
Spending time with my Italian cousins was also always a treat. They treated me like a princess and it felt so good – even when I was in my awkward teenage stage, they still didn’t seem to notice and we had lots of adventures together. My favorite one had to do with a giant thunderstorm my cousin and I got caught in. Thunderstorms in that part of Italy are wild – the sky turns black and the water comes down in buckets! Well, my cousin was visiting and we had decided to take a walk through the “pratti” to the lake. This was our little adventure every time we were together. This particular day, our parents told us to be careful because there was a storm coming. Being young, we ignored their warnings and took off. Well, as soon as we arrived into the town, the skies opened up and it began raining in torrents! We had no where else to take refuge but inside the church. Laughing and drenched, we waited it out under the porticos of the church. A little while later, a car drove up and pulled up slowly outside the church – we saw our fathers in the car! They had come to rescue us! We got a bit of a lecture, but we didn’t care because it had been fun!
I want to relive those lazy days in Italy – it seems like every time I visit now, I am always be bopping around and don’t have to just relax and take in the smells and the sounds of the summertime. But I do get little pieces of it here and there, and it brings me back to those happy childhood days.