"Sir, look around. You are in Italy. Did you notice?"
Our second trip to Rome is currently underway, and I have to say, its as wonderful as I remember from the last time we were here 5.5 years ago.
This time has an extra level of magic, though, because we are joined by our kids. Introducing them to the sights and sounds and culture of one of my favorite places in all the world...its So. Much. Fun.
I'm always surprised when they have very strong opinions about things. (I don't know why, as I am their mother and I haven't met a single topic, ever, that I haven't felt strongly about.)
Nate, (12 years old) for example, looks away every time the Colosseum comes into view. Why? Because we have a tour scheduled for Thursday and he doesn't want to SEE it until he gets to REALLY see it. (insert shoulder shrug and eye roll here)
Nate also bemoaned the fact that there was no cheeseburger on the menu at the little Italian bistro where we had supper last night. Sigh...
Gabe asked "Is this the Sistine Chapel?" about every room in the Vatican museum...(in his defense, there are no churches, or any rooms at all, with beautifully painted ceilings in the USA, and I forgot to inform him that pretty much ALL of them are in Italy, so the confusion of a 9-year-old is to be expected.) But when we actually entered the famed chapel, he understood what I meant when I told him "No, buddy, you won't have to wonder when you get there. You'll KNOW you're in the Sistine Chapel." It's such an amazing experience.
A random, handsome young Italian man winked at my blond headed 17-year-old daughter earlier. Luckily her 15-year-old brother/protector didn't see it, or there would've been an altercation. I saw it though, and giggled at her flustered smile. What IS it about blond hair in a country full of dark headed people?
The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon...all of it was lit with golden sunlight. We climbed, and counted, all the stairs. We threw coins in the world's most famous fountain. We walked inside the oldest church still standing in Rome.
We also went inside several other churches, because I just LOVE the beauty of them. The kids were stunned, time after time, by the opulence and grandeur. Finally, we stopped in a huddle outside one to discuss. We talked about how people often want to honor God with extravagance. And how sometimes it is mistakenly thought that expensive excess invites His presence. "Be extravagant in your walk with Him. I support that. But remember...He is wherever you invite Him to be. Even right here on the street with us."
They have whispered to me, more times than I can count, "The Pope's not Jesus." I laugh and shush them every time. Sigh...that one is totally my fault.
The last time I was in Rome, I had taken as much as I could take from a particular tour guide on the subject of the leader of the Catholic Church. Don't get me wrong...I'm not anti-Pope, categorically. I AM anti-WORSHIP-of-a-MAN. So, I turned to my husband and said under my breath, "To be clear, so it has been said...the Pope is not Jesus."
Heath's retelling of this story involves me saying it loudly and attracting attention, which is an excessive exaggeration. But the kids think its the funniest thing ever, and have reminded me of it repeatedly.
I am pleased to report that my children are enjoying, and embracing, the culture of the Eternal City. Clay ate 4 croissants at breakfast this morning. (ah, to have the metabolism of a 15-year-old.)
We walked down an alley to a tiny gelato shop this afternoon, because its Italy, so gelato is required.
Clay ordered lemon gelato. The shop owner told him he could have 3 flavors. "Can I get triple lemon?" Clay asked.
"Yes, you can," was the reply. "But, sir, look around you. You are in Italy. Did you notice? You should try three. Please. Surprise me."
Clay laughed good-naturedly and chose two additional flavors.
"Thank you sir, you make my day," the shop owner called as we left.
Lemon was still Clay's favorite flavor. But this story will join the ranks of "The Pope's not Jesus" in our list of family story references. Because we have laughed and repeated it all day.
We are coming home, we promise. But not yet.
There's so much more history to soak up.
And home-made pasta to eat.
And Italian leather to purchase.
And stories to accumulate.