Returning to San Clemente was in fact traumatic. It took me almost a month to bounce back from the abrupt change in the energy, the landscape and the mood. I was stunned, almost frozen. It took me a while to defrost.
I had worried during my absence if my dear friends from home would still be my friends….would they still be there? Or would distance and time prove otherwise? Is it true "out of site, out of mind"? Would I be disappointed? In the process, I achieved more clarity. My relationships became more defined, more selective. The good ones got better. The other ones melted. This helped me to understand myself and my alliances better, to become more certain and directed about my own identity and my own future. I bonded more strongly with certain special friends and lost some others that had been ambiguous. I achieved the clarity I needed to return to Florence without doubts.
And what did fate have in store for me?
Little did I ever expect my Italian dual citizenship to materialize so quickly. What should have taken at least 2 years to happen, happened in record time. It was simply meant to be. With all 14 documents in hand, 3 weeks ago, I went to NYC to obtain apositilles, and only days later Roberto called me with the exciting news…..Department of Homeland Security….INS verified that Great Grandpa Mazzella never became an American citizen.
According to Italian immigration law, this means that I've been an Italian citizen since birth, but never knew it. That simple.
Like a spreading fire, the rest happened within the 2 following weeks. I filed my application for citizenship, and despite a 9 month waiting list for an appointment with the Italian Consulate, I was "slipped in" for a meeting on March 31st. In the meantime, I hurriedly changed my name, got a new American passport, produced the Supreme Court Order Name Change document from 1932 that was uncovered through a relative of a relative, and on the afternoon of March 31st, Roberto called me from the 5 Freeway with the joyous news that my application had been approved!
Now what? I am a dual American/Italian citizen. I'm stunned, I'm shocked. I’m packing my bags. I'm saying my final goodbyes to my precious friends. I'm riding my bike one last time in San Clemente and it's environs. I'm gazing at the beauty of the southern California landscape as every possible shrub and flower and mustard plant are bursting with life in the foreground of the endless blue Pacific Ocean whose waves are furiously crashing in front of me. California has never looked so bright, so splendid, so colorful. Why am I leaving this perfect, predictable lifestyle for a life that's emotionally and physically arduous, simple, humble, difficult?
Easter at Brenda's….8 couples and Barbara! My friends from OCW….who have seen me through ups, downs, happiness and trouble….were all there, just like before. Was this to be my last American Easter? If I were in Florence, I would be spending la Pasqua at Niccola's villa in Siena against the verdant Tuscan landscape, feasting on a whole lamb cooked on the fireplace in his cellar. I received a shocker of a quilt from Donna and Kent to keep me warm in my Florence bed, and rosary beads from Brenda to keep me in God's hands. My friends saw me off with love. Much love.
And then Tuesday night I spent with my dearest girlfriends. Why am I leaving this? I love them so much. What mixed emotions. And here I am packing my things…. with no idea of when I'll return.
As I pack my bags, my return to Florence takes on a more serious note. What to do? Just let the flow predict the outcome.
My bags are packed. Why did I take my winter clothes? It's not even summer yet. Meg and Harry take me to the airport, but we first stop by Donna and Kent's for one last hug. Meg gives me rosary beads that used to be daddy's.
I am wondering if this time Florence will be different. The last time there were no expectations….and everything fell into place. This time I know what to expect. Now I am a citizen. Now I belong. Now I have to find my place and my work.....and perhaps start a business. I'm not a student, not a tourist. Florence is my address. This is not a dream. Will it work? Or is this just a fantasy?
I boarded my flight on Air France. It was a little disorienting to fly to Italy while listening to everything in French for 18 hours. I started reading Gomorrah, but after 4 chapters, decided this is not the Italy I want to read about. I closed the book, went to sleep, woke up in Paris and changed planes to Florence.
A couple of hours later, as my plane descended, it was dark and raining in Florence.
As I went through customs, an official asked me what was in the heavy box. I tried to explain that it was a bike trainer. He didn't really understand, but he said with a confused smile "Vai...Va bene!".
Angella was there, waiting for me outside customs. I was tired but excited. We drove to my apartment and dragged all 200 lbs.of my luggage up 52 steep stairs. I opened the door. Wow. I was back in my apartment and everything was just the way I left it in January. The first thing I did was to try to get my computer up and running, but wireless internet was down. And come on, it's time to go to bed. I'm pooped.
Will I be happy here again? I am tired. Buona notte.