A Very Brady Italy

Dear Lindsey,

After a full year of busyness, we were ready to convalesce as a family!

Of course we could do that in our basement, or at the lake, or at my kids’ favorite campground in Silver Lake Michigan, but we decided to get away – really AWAY – to Italy. (See video scrapbook below.)  We have been to Italy several times, most famously five years ago, when my husband Chris wrote his book, A Month of Italy.  

Thanks to Chris’s vacation advice, on this trip I suppressed my “task-oriented” self. I did not sort emails or work on my lists (despite how I wanted to, since I finally had time!). I didn’t count the calories of the gelato and tried to stop thinking about the stress at home; I enjoyed my family.  My quiet times got deeper. On a true vacation, life can be whittled down to what really matters, to release the stuff that really doesn’t.* As I forced myself away from the daily grind, I was able to think of the long-term-vision that seemed to have taken a backseat to busyness this year. New ideas; new goals; fresh brain! Ahh vacation.

This vacation wasn’t as entertaining as our original month-long vacation, since
the kids are older (now 18, 15, 11 and 10), and we are probably a little more seasoned visitors of the country. However, our oldest leaves for college next week, and we all seemed to cherish every moment as a family of six, knowing we will be having dinners of five too soon.

We had our funny moments:

  • When the woman said in her Italian accent that she was a “ballet” dancer in Florence, and I misunderstood and asked her if she was a “belly” dancer. Bahaha! No judging here!
  • When Chris said in perfect Italian, “Posso …formaggio?” when he noticed our table lacked parmigiano cheese. The kids quickly pointed out that he had actually said “Can I … cheese?” which of course went viral on our vacation as the kids often asked if they could…cheese…in Italian.
  • We listened to Italian songs that Chris had downloaded onto his phone. We couldn’t tell what the words actually meant, but that didn’t stop us from singing along in full volume! It reminded us of a funny commercial when a family is singing along in a different language, not knowing the horrendous words they are saying. So Nate (age 15) was careful to not sing anything inappropriate and instead  sang words that he did know – which were limited to food: “Posso Formaggio! Latte! Manzo! Pasta! Pizza!”  He sang to the tune of whatever song was playing – in full tenor voice like Luciano Pavarotti. (And made me laugh!)
  • We played a card game we had just learned with great friends who came to visit North Carolina in early June. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest score by getting rid of all of your cards. Hysterically, Casey could not get rid of cards, and while the rest of us were within one hundred points of each other, Casey hung out 300 points behind last place! “Casey, you stink at this!” Chris had said in surprise, since Casey usually seems to have a knack for winning. Chris’s uncharacteristic quote again went viral as the kids enjoyed repeating Dad’s funny statement toward Casey any chance they got, often in the form of a rap song.

We had our amazing moments:

  • Chris took us to Orvieto where we had not been in four years. Without GPS or maps, he drove through the town, right up to the driveway of the villa we had rented (which was no easy task to find four years ago WITH a GPS.) He then took us to a restaurant further up the mountain where we had chingiale (wild boar) sausage and pasta to repeat our order from back then. (OK – maybe that is not “amazing” to you, but I was amazed, since I can hardly get around in my own country without a GPS!)
  • At our favorite villa, Il Trebbio, outside of Cortona where we have visited several times, our rental neighbors turned out to be from Raleigh, NC, and were even taking the same flight arrangement home after their five-week stay. Mondo piccolo. (Small world!)

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We missed our weird moments.

“Nothing weird has happened to us this trip!” Casey (age 18) said on one of the last nights. It was almost sad for us.

  • We didn’t have a motorcycle crash into us after popping our tire with his foot peg when he passed too close to our van in Rome traffic.
  • We didn’t have a 12-passenger mini-bus as our rental car, even though Italians are still shocked that we take four children on trips.
  • No child said, “I forgot my shoes” when we were already an hour into the drive for a day-trip to an ancient city.
  • We didn’t have any other child say, “Me too,” realizing he also had forgotten to put on shoes for the same day-trip.
  • We didn’t have any accidental orders of grappa (which Chris swears is kerosene, but Italians drink it) or pasta al scolio (which was full of octopus and squid, not meatballs like the ordering child had hoped).
  • No scorpions came in through the window at 1am, scaring us into leaving the windows closed for the duration of the week with temperatures in the high 90’s – without air conditioning.
  • No man screamed at us, “Allevamento!” (which means “breeding farm”) into a crowd at the market when he saw we had four children.
  • We didn’t see the dog – which looked like a seeing-eye-dog – wearing a shirt that said, “Womanizer.”

We disconnected in order to be reconnected.

IMG_8502 (3)We rested. We bonded.

We turned off electronics. (Turning off electronics put the “family” back into “family vacation.”)

We played cards. (And all the kids are at a competitive level now.)

We swam. (And kids are big enough that nobody is in massive peril.)

We read…and read and read… (and the kids did too).

We enjoyed early mornings with singing birds and late mornings, catching up on a year’s worth of sleep.

We enjoyed the views from the air-conditioned car, while miles of sunflowers and lavender, wheat and hay passed by our windows. Hundred-year-old cypress trees seemed old until we realized they lined the driveways of six-hundred-year-old estates. Grapes hung down near our outdoor dinner table, while grape leaves brought the welcomed shade on the canopy over our heads. Crops formed their signature squares that make the land of Tuscany so beautiful from its mountaintops.

Glorious vacation.

Family bonding.

Minds at rest.

A heart that has had a good vacation is what makes home feel sweet.  IMG_8676

In gratitude for vacation,

Terri Brady

Video Scrapbook of Bradys in Italy:

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* “Going to the cross reminds me of what really matters, so I can release the stuff that really doesn’t.” – Kimberly Wagner

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