We’ve Got to Take it Seriously, the Summer

They’re very serious about summer vacation, Italians.  Everyone, bar-owners,picture sanitation workers and traveling salesmen included.  It’s considered a sacred right, a well-deserved break, and nobody is going to touch it, damn it.  Okay, I grew up in the school, thus our summer vacations were exceptionally long, and we expected nothing less.  True, the blissful four-month summer break of my childhood no longer exists, but July and August (and often a hefty chunk of June), well, nobody is going to touch that for the teachers.  Now, I, living here in the ‘never-take-a-breath’ American mode, attempt to work (and continuously seek work) throughout the summer, so that civilized European God-given right doesn’t apply to me, but I guess I had my share of endless, lazy summers, back then when I still lived solely in Italian.  Around March/April, my father would bring up the subject: where shall we go this summer? Though it really meant part of the summer.  Simply because we already had our default destination for (usually) the month of August: Colli al Volturno, the minuscule village in the mountain of Molise, where my father’s childhood home was located.  Sunny days and cool nights, a star-filled sky to gaze upon when the streets became silent and deserted.  A tranquil, slow-paced, uneventful vacation that hardly deserved the name.  We allhated it.  Except my father, of course, whose barely concealed dream was to spend the rest of his life there (never happened).  An unbearably tedious place for teenagers looking for excitement, a painfully inconvenient location for my mother who would have to rely on the very limited food availability, unless my father drove her to the city nearby, Isernia, and a very small provincial city at that.  Anyway, there was always a real vacation in an acceptable pictureplace.  Usually a sea resort, a ‘calm’ one, not the places I yearned to go to – the trendy, hopping beach villages patronized by the ‘cool’ population – but more like family-style Jersey Shore, type Long Beach Island.  There was not hanging out at the bars and discothèque of the moment till the small hours for us, but curfew at nine-thirty, sitting on the narrow balcony of the one bedroom we all shared, the glass doors closed to curtail the onslaught of the aggressive mosquitoes that would feast on us all night.  Listening to my father earnestly describe the constellations…and to the sounds of the lucky ones having fun in the bars further down the street.  Still, I have fond memories of those summer vacations, and appreciate (finally) how they were meant really for us kids, even though the locations were not our choice. It was a rare July that we’d go to a resort, or a hotel.  More times than not, my father rented a tiny apartment in a small sea town, within walking distance of the beach.  And walk we did, early in the morning (Svegli tutti, andiamo al mare!), schlepping bags and hats and sand toys and inflated life-savers.  Arrived at our lido, we opened our rented umbrella, dragged over the beach chairs (also rented), and settled to spend the next several hours doing all the usual  beach things.  Then, tired, overheated and cranky, we’d walk back to the apartment, where my mother would immediately scramble to prepare il pranzo, barely taking a breath between chores (yes, of course, she had alreadyFormia put all the bathing suits to soak in the bathroom sink, swept up the sand and hung the towels on the line to dry.)  No, no piece of cake for her, this working vacation, but it fulfilled its purpose: to have us children breathe in some fresh aria di mare, which would keep us healthy through the winter.  And it kills me that, for various reasons, I wasn’t able to follow that admirable tradition with my own children, here in the States.  No, they won’t have memories of familiar beaches, walks along thelungomare holding a cone of pistachio ice cream.  Or packing up the car with all the summer paraphernalia for our long ride per andare al mare.  Every blessed summer.  So bloody sad.

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