Sunday, February 14, 2010

From the Words of a Gypsy: My Love Story

If I look back, and rewind the movie of my life long enough to glimpse at the last twenty years or so, I can see that my marriage was in the cards since before I met my husband, or, even better, it was mapped on the lines of my hand. Odd thing to say, you think? Well, listen to my story, and you might agree with me.

On a cold winter morning, a few weeks shy of Christmas 1986, I skipped school with a friend, and we went to hang out at Piazza Dei Miracoli, near the Leaning Tower. Bored as we were, we scanned the crowd of tourists brave enough to defy the weather in favor of snapping a few pictures, until we noticed an old woman, clad in traditional gipsy clothes, who asked if we were interested in having our palms read. We giggled and agreed.

The woman took my hand, and studied it for a few moments, then lifted her deep chocolate brown eyes to meet mine. “You are getting ready to go on a trip” she said “which will redirect the path you will follow”. Since I was preparing to go to London for the Christmas holidays, my attention was immediately piqued. “When you get back, you will be so enthusiastic from your vacation that you will seek ways to go back. A few months later, you will meet a man, you will marry him and will travel far together, and to see your family again you will embark on a long, long trip”.

After reading my friend’s palm the woman left without even collecting the few coins we had for her, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her words. To the ears of a dreamy teenager they went beyond the notes of a sweet melody, and I began to fantasize about this Mr. Wonderful who would allegedly sweep me off to a faraway land.

Months went by. I went on my trip and fell in love with London; deep down, I secretly hoped to be able to move there some day. That summer, my parents went to a different beach establishment than the one they normally went to, and I noticed it was right beside a morsel of beach owned by the American base in Tirrenia.

It wasn’t long – as I lay on the shore sunbathing – until I noticed a very handsome lifeguard staring in my direction. He nodded when he saw me looking back, and soon the smiles began. Still nursing my dream of moving to London, I jumped at the chance to practice my English, and after gathering all the courage I had, I went to the snack bar of the American establishment to get a soda.

My handsome lifeguard was there. So was the beach doggie, Boo-Boo. I leaned down to pad him, and the lifeguard smiled at me. I smiled back. He gave Boo-Boo most of the ham in his sandwich – a gesture that certainly earned him several points in my book. We began to talk, half broken English and half broker Italian. By the time I left, he had asked me on a date.

We went on our first date on June 16 1987, the night of celebration for St. Ranieri, the patron of Pisa. We watched fireworks and had pizza, and finally sealed that magical evening with a kiss. We continued to date until John left Italy in March 1988; I followed him a few months later in November 1988.

That day was a bittersweet one for me – I was following the love of my life, yet I was saying goodbye to all I had loved and held dear until then. That was twenty years ago - John and I will celebrate our twenty-first wedding anniversary this spring. As a couple we have encountered some hard moments, but have conquered each stone and moved forward together. The old gypsy’s prediction still lives on.