Monday, December 31, 2012

The Province of Wanderlust

I was born into a family of travellers, or more likely a travelling family.  My mother delights in telling the stories of her 8 pregnancies, each one ending in a different location to where it started, thus was the moving spirit of my family in their early years.  We changed schools and towns/cities so often when I was growing up, it was almost difficult to keep track.  Now adults, most of my siblings have chosen to stay put, some have lived in the same locations that they did when they were in their late teens.  The rest of the family moved on, and if they were old enough they stayed on their own.  But me, I have not stayed put, I was gifted with a healthy dose of wanderlust.  Not that I am not content, and nor do I feel I have never put down roots, I like to think I have, or at least planted seeds in the places I have gone.

It is funny, I look back fondly on the places I lived or travelled as a child, I remember places, stories and the images play in my head like a digital photo frame.  However the places I have visited as an adult have burrowed a space in my heart, etched their memory in my brain and refuse to just sit as fond memories.  Italy and Australia call to me, my memories are vivid; sounds, smells, tastes and friends.  These are things I just have a harder time moving to the shelf of distant memories.  Some mornings I wake up missing one place so much, and I don't know why.

I should note, I am very happy.  I was also blessed with the gift of Pollyannaism.  And this is why I like to think I have set down roots.  Like a talented camper who can set up camp easily and quickly, I set up 'home' quickly and easily.  I have been very fortunate to have made amazing friends where ever I have lived which can mean the difference to loving or hating the place where you are.  And I believe friends are what hold your heart in a place you have left behind.   And perhaps it manifests itself as the memories of sounds, tastes, smells, but I believe it is the friends who you hold dear, are what make it hard for you to fully move on from a place you have left behind.

The downside to all this travelling is having to leave good friends behind, no matter where you go.  I think we are lucky in this time of email and facetime and facebook and texting and the list goes on, we are able to keep in touch easily and quickly with friends the world over, but there is just something like sitting down over a glass or cup of something and just really enjoying each others company.  Though I miss the art, museums, food, architecture, coffee and warm sun in Australia and Italy, it is the friends I shared all of those wonderful things with, that I miss the most.

Now as embark on yet another move, I will be leaving behind another group of friends.  Friends so dear I think of them as my family by choice.  I know I will have mornings where I wake up missing Victoria, yearning for a Fernwood Coffee or a Mount Royal bagel, or a walk on Dallas Road and the friends with which I have shared these things.  But I know that I will be with some old friends and creating new friendships, and quickly and efficiently setting up 'home' for myself and my family, for this is the way I am.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Memories of Christmas Past

Christmas Tree at Piazzale Michelangelo, Firenze

I was just reading a lovely little blog by a young girl who is traveling in Italy with her family, and it reminded me of the wonderful holiday we spent there last year.  Italy really loves Christmas, the celebration is so wonderful, there are lights, people everywhere and just such a wonderful feeling at this time of year.  After reading Phoebe's post, I decided I would write down some of my favourite things about Christmas in Italy, many of the traditions that have followed us home to Canada.

I was always taken by the abundance of religious iconography around Italy, such as the roadside Madonnas, and at Christmas the main theme was the precepe, or nativity scene.  They were everywhere, some small, some large, some truly spectacular. Some of my favourites are posted here.  I loved how people would set them up on large tables in front of their houses, complete with star covered foil paper, and some were just tucked into a small window sill.

This was set up on the lawn at a house in our village.

This one in a nearby town was life sized stuffed figures.

The lovely coffee shop in Monte San Savino, made of marzipan and profiteroles.

This was on the windowsill of a house on a busy street in Arezzo.

One of very favourites was the one in an old Fiat 500.

This was a beautiful precepe at our good friends, she has carefully collected the figures over many years.  All made by the same craftsman.

This one in a church in Arezzo ran on a sound and light loop that lasted 10 minutes.  There was even flowing water.

In Tuscany they call Santa Claus, Babbo Natale (Father Christmas).  And it seems he is the same as what we have here, but for me, the big star of the holidays was Befana.  I wrote a post about her last year, but as she is pretty fresh in the minds of my children, I decided she could use another mention.  Befana actually doesn't show up until the Epiphany, she flies around Italy on her broom, (but she is not a Witch), taking candy to the good children and 'carbona' or coal to the naughty ones.

Last year we made a felted Befana and the lovely woman in the newsagent where we lived gave us a Befana stocking so we could hang it to be filled on the eve of the Epiphany.  When we went through town on the evening of January 5th, there was one of the village ladies dressed as an old woman, as Befana, riding through town in a cart pulled by a donkey.  The children loved it.  I had one of the children at the preschool even come in the following week with a big container of 'carbona'.  The 'carbona' seemed to be some sort of black honeycomb like candy, I regret now that I didn't try it while I had the chance, and as I had been good, the Befana only left candy for me;)

I am happy to be home and celebrating Christmas and the holidays with friends and family here.  I am happy to bring back some of the great traditions we learned, and I really do look back fondly on our holiday season last year, it was such a wonderful experience.  The lights were amazing.  Oh, and the most amazing Cannoli I have ever tasted.....