I have been meaning to write this for a couple of days. Then I got lazy and I preferred to enjoy the first couple of spring days rather than sitting inside and writing my blog!
Last week was kind of weird. I was in my home village, Civitella, until Monday. Then, on Monday evening, we left to go to Pisa where we work. Tuesday and Wednesday were the “unexpected snow days” in Tuscany. Some of you might have heard this: the was a big snowfall in central and western Tuscany and my village got 30cm of snow, which never ever happens anymore.
Of course, we were in Pisa, where it didn’t snow at all: we heard the stories of those who were here at home and saw the pictures published by friends and family on Facebook. By Thursday it was practically all gone, and on Friday when we came back all that was left was a few small piles in some shaded fields and on the higher hills. It was as if it had never happened, except for the large amount of broken branches left on the ground and a couple of imploded shelters in a parking lot. I was sorry I had missed such a remarkable event for the village.
For the past 15 years I have spent half my time in Pisa, and I still couldn’t wait to get out of there and “come back home“. Even more so when on Thursday my mother told me that my dad’s aunt Onelia, my beloved grandfather’s sister, had passed. She was 94, so it was supposed to happen sooner rather than later, but still, the idea that, yet again, I was stuck in Pisa and I couldn’t be with my family on this occasion made me sad and restless.
The funeral was on Friday at 3pm and we had guests arriving at our Pisa vacation rental apartment at 12pm. Just enough time left to drive back to the village and join the rest of the family in their goodbye to aunt Onelia. Too bad our guests’ flight was canceled and we didn’t hear this from them until much later, so we had no idea when they would arrive or how. Luckily, a friend who lives in Pisa was kind enough to take care of them, and to pick them up for us and check them in so that we could get out of Pisa in time for the funeral.
In all of this, I have realized what I have always known: no matter how much time I spend elsewhere, my village is still home.
I know this is kind of weird to understand for many. I suppose expats like my husband and his family, or many of our friends have chosen a different place than their birth place as their home. I have been thinking about the reasons that make this my home.
Isn’t there some saying that says that “home is where the heart is” or something? Well, I have learnt to live in Pisa and enjoy it, but that is by no means my home. My home is where my family is. This is what I have realized looking around me at my aunt’s funeral.
Most of my relatives still live in the village, which is in itself an unusual turn of events. In a way, my roots were bound to go this deep: both my parents are from the village, my 4 grandparents were all from the village (my grandma is still alive and kicking: she’s only 73 so she’ll hopefully still be around for a long time!), 7 of my 8 great-grandparents were from the village, and I guess I could go back in time and find that most of my ancestors were from here as well. I have been lucky enough to have young parents and grandparents, so that my parents’ aunts and uncles have been my aunts and uncles, and their cousins have been my cousins too. Some of them were in fact closer in age to me than to them. I have known 3 of my great-grandparents, who passed well after I was 10 (the last one as late as 1994, and I have written a post about her for the Velvet Escape Blog, The Rebel).
What is exceptional too is that, despite the inevitable difficult times and – I have to say seldom – arguments over the years, we were all there at my aunt’s funeral, at least 4 generations, of two different families. My mother’s relatives were also there, because of course in a community of 350 people, the concept of family, friend and neighbour are all blurred!
I have been lucky enough to be born and raised in such a small community and a harmonious family, where people help each other in times of grief and make fun of each other in times where a good reprimand would be in order, so as not to upset anybody and still give their own piece of advice.
Some of the people who were there, the younger generations essentially, have been forced to move outside the village to find work, like me. We rarely see each other, but we have always all gathered for the main events in each other’s lives or to honour traditions like the village festival. I know they are there even when I have forgotten they are.
I looked around, and I felt I knew who I was, and where I came from. That is what feeling at home means to me. Now I know.