“Believe in yourself. I believe in you. Get that ‘get-up-and-go’ spirit back. You have had a good year so far because you took risks and were willing to work hard. Let it continue.”
They are words that are as relevant to me today as they were then.
Today marks ten years that she’s been gone.
A year after she died, I wrote a column for Huffington Post about my mom that included several other messages that she sent me when I was in Bologna. They were filled with encouraging words of support and her own credos. “Remember: success equals effort. I hope you do what you need to do for yourself. Don’t be scared. I’m right here to help.”
I decided that I would never stop reaching for new goals, never stop dreaming big and living large because to do so would be a disservice to her. I’m still at it and it revolves around Italy.
It’s really always been about Italy. From the time Mom went back to her hometown in Sicily in 1977 to present day, no matter where I was living or what was on my life’s agenda, it was always going to bring me back to Italy. These past ten years have cemented it.
The summer after I sold her house, I followed through on a much-talked about vacation to the Dolomite Mountains with some close friends. While there, everything changed: my outlook on life, my sense of what adventure really means and I made it my mission to get back there as soon and as often as I could.
As I’ve chronicled on this blog, soon after that trip, I left for two months to study Italian in Siena. I spent time with relatives in Milan and Christmas with cousins in Grotte, Sicily, Mom’s hometown. New Year’s Eve I was with friends in Bologna. I was back that summer, hiking again in the Dolomites, seeing the famous Palio of Siena and visited longtime friends in Naples. I went back the following year to my old stomping grounds in Rome and discovered Umbria. Then summertime I went back to Siena and then hit the beach with a friend. Two years ago, I did something new again: I went on a biking vacation in Puglia.
Writing the blog lead me back to writing articles again, something I hadn’t done since the late 1990s. I wrote for a news site here in Cincinnati and for the National Italian American Foundation magazine “Ambassador.” What a gift: I was able to couple my writing career with my Italian language skills and I became a freelance journalist. (“Believe in yourself. I believe in you. Get that ‘get-up-and-go’ spirit back.”)
I didn’t get through them alone. Family and friends checked in, answered the phone when I called. They listened, even if all I was doing was crying. They visited. One Sunday morning they they picked up the phone, realized I was having a rough morning and came over immediately, still in pajamas, just to sit with me. (I’ll never forget that Lisa B.) The “seniors” group at the Y became pseudo mentors and I’ve made a host of new friends who, well, basically have to listen to all of my stories about Italy!
Despite the madness of 2020, and maybe even because of it, I’m still setting goals, dreaming big and know that I will get back to Italy soon. I have plenty more to discover and write about.
“Have a good weekend and stop worrying. Be positive. Be professional. Be good. I’m always thinking about you. Don’t worry. Things will work out one way or another. Love, Mom.”