I have always been a family oriented person. I was the one that would make place-cards and elaborately set the dining room table to encourage my family to sit and eat as one. I have helped plan countless reunions and birthday parties over the years.
My family is who I am and is the strongest force in my life. Their unconditional love, words of wisdom, prayers, and reassurance has helped make me the woman I am today. So that being said, spending this length of time away from them has been trying.
While living in Croatia, the beautiful landscape, constant activity, and nurturing souls around me manifested a new family. This sense of comfort and security kept my mind off of my loved ones at home. During our backpacking travels, this family grew even more compact and stronger.
Yet after my arrival in Italy, I realized that I was now truly on my own. I had to create my own life, find new friends and build new relationships. I am eternally grateful for the wonderful people I have met and bonds I have formed here in Italy; they have made this transition into the next part of my journey graciously easy.
Even with the love I am surrounded by in Italy and the relationships I have built that are scattered across the globe, nothing compares the joy I felt having my sister and brother-in-law visit me in Florence. My older sister, Leah, and her husband, Mike, celebrated their honeymoon in Italy a year after their memorable wedding and were kind enough to incorporate me into their trip.
One afternoon I met Leah and Mike in the Piazza Repubblica outside of work. Seeing their faces was beyond comforting and instantly renewed my spirit. It was a strange sight as first – having two people from my previous life in the States planted right in the middle of my new life in Italy. However, the peculiarity of this reunion was dissolved by the tremendous outpouring of happiness among us.
Leah has been my rock over the years. With time our relationship has transformed from typical catty sisters to best friends. She has been my role model, my cheerleader, and my protector. She has offered advice when I sought guidance and offered silence when I needed to vent. She has provided a roof over my head when my job reached an abrupt end. She knows my dreams, my secrets, my fears, and my values. We do not try to change each other, but rather encourage one another to develop and grow in this life.
I am fortunate to share my beautiful sister with her loving husband, Mike. He admires and cherishes her just as everyone else in her presence does. Their college partnership has flourished into a sound marriage – one that is filled with quirkiness, laughter, and immense love. Their relationship has been through every battle and has come out the victor each time.
Just as our times spent in the States, the three of us enjoyed each others company with ease and laughter. Leah persisted we indulge in the best Gelato and planned our explorations in Tuscany. Mike kept us in good spirits with his humor and educated us on Italian automobiles and architecture. I happily served as the tour guide and third wheel on their honeymoon. The weekend was full of delicious food, sight-seeing, a wine tasting in Tuscany, and plenty of gelato – it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Each of our lives have changed for the better over the previous six months - with new jobs and new homes. Yet whether we are in the Bronx, Arizona, Connecticut, or Italy, our relationship has and will always stay the same. At every phase of my life they have been there for me as a support system and as companions.
So as we were to meet at 9:30 on the steps of the Duomo in Florence, I know I will meet them again for another memorable weekend in another country on my journey.