My Italian Diary: The Departure
4 July 2018
Tomorrow. I’m moving to Italy…tomorrow. Almost my entire family is here to celebrate the holiday, to celebrate our move, my birthday — this is great day! The sky is bright, the waves are calm, and we’ve got enough good, fresh food to last the rest of the summer. This move is something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life. How could I possibly be thinking twice?? Don’t look at mom. ESPECIALLY don’t look at dad. Don’t look at anyone. Go in Carly’s room, close the door, and let it out.
I didn’t even make it to the bed to cry comfortably. Davide opened the door to find me curled in a ball over the edge of the bed — my legs spilled out on the floor, with a face covered in a strong mixture of snot and tears. “My Lulu,” he said after gently pushing my hair to the side “please amore mio, what can I do for you? How can I help you?” “Mom,” I said “I need my mom.”
No matter what age I am, there will never be a feeling as comforting as having your mother rub your back and tell you it’s going to be ok. “I’m so proud of you,” she said. I knew she meant it, too. After a few minutes, I was able to catch my breath enough to rejoin in my favourite holiday.
It’s incredibly difficult to emphasise what my family means to me. We have moved mountains together, and in many ways, have redefined what it means to live. Every moment I spend with them is truly precious to me. This was, and still is my only fear about moving so far away. I’m always worrying myself about if something happens to them. Death has always been a very contemporaneous part of my life, and I’ve learned to accept it, but there is of course always the inevitable fear of it striking; especially while I’m so far away.
I am so fortunate to have a family that supports my dreams, no matter how big or outlandish they may be. They don’t just support me with words, either. Every time I see my family, it’s always big hugs and kisses, wholesome meals, intellectual conversations, and a very strong connection to who we have all evolved to be throughout the years.
We sang happy birthday for my dad and I, like every year. This year was a little different, though. My favorite cake (Napoleon cake from La Deliziosa in Poughkeepsie) was missing this year because the endometriosis isn’t very forgiving with that much sugar. My cousin, who is like a sister to me, was also not able to join in the festivities this year. There were so many things that made me even more sad, but so many blessings at the same time. My dad’s sister and her family were able to join us, which was one of the greatest birthday gifts I could have asked for. My cousin, who moved to Colorado, surprised everyone and seeing the look on his parents’ faces was so incredible. We had many friends join us, who are always taken in just like family.
After happy birthdays, my father was anxious to get on the road before traffic got bad, and before he wanted to realise that this was the last moment he would see me for some time. But I promised my family that Davide and I would perform a mini concert for them since I almost always refuse to sing in front of them. He agreed to stay to listen, but I knew his heart was aching. He loves when I sing, and to him, this concert was a representation of me leaving. Deep breath. Don’t look at anyone. Just sing. Breathe.
My father and I have always had a very unspoken, complex, and vulnerable relationship. We simply understand one another, especially when others don’t. Throughout the past few years in particular, our understanding of one another has grown immensely. We have formed a new-found respect for each other. Not only father-daughter…more as human to human. This time, though, was a little more difficult to find an understanding.
We stood silently on the front porch of my Aunt and Uncle’s home on the Long Island Sound. His big blue eyes began to well, filling with tears. “You have your whole life set up here, Alyssa,” he muttered, “coming back home doesn’t mean you failed. Remember that.” I will remember that for the rest of my life. We held each other tightly, said “I love you”, and he drove away unable to look back at me — his little girl, grown up, on her way to live across the world, crying at the very sentiment of telling her father how much she loves him.
I immediately retreated back to Carly’s room to let it out (again), where I was quickly greeted by the loud questions in my mind of why I was doing this. This time, so many of my family and friends came to my rescue. Once I was ready, we headed to the beach to see the fireworks together — a long-lasting tradition that always holds a special place in my heart. The night closed with many laughs, a few glasses of wine, and great conversation. My heart was left feeling so conflicted. I was doing it. Tomorrow would start the beginning of me following my dreams of moving to Italy. But the feeling of leaving my family behind still haunts me, even though they have been cheering me on the entire time.
Thursday, 5 July 2018 - The Flight
I had a classic Long Island bagel, exchanged laughs and memories just like every ‘day after the fourth’ before. This time, though, I was running around making sure I had everything — there was no turning back. “We ready?” they said. “I think so!” I yelled back while nervously scarfing down the salad my sister made me for the trip. Little did I realise, this was yet another set of goodbyes. My sister was returning out east and wouldn’t join us on our way to the airport. I held her closely, knowing it wouldn’t be long before I saw her again. Once we got to JFK, it took everything in me to stop hugging my mom — to walk away, cross that security line, and get on the plane. I kept turning around to see her, my aunt and uncle, and cousin standing there waving. I remember being afraid I would forget what their hugs feel like; That feeling I am so nurtured by, and can break me out of any emotional spell.
After 20 minutes of weight distributing between bags, and a few Arrested Development clips to cheer me up, we were at the gate. I felt this overwhelming energy almost pushing me on the plane, despite how badly I wanted my family by my side. I took a final look at the departure screen. “New York JFK to Milan Malpensa,” it read. New York has shaped me to who I am today. I couldn't wrap my mind around leaving it all behind. I moved to Brooklyn with two cats, three jobs, and a view of the garbage from our apartment building. Every single (unforgettable) experience, people I met, and choices I made brought me to where I am in this moment. I left Brooklyn living with my Italian boyfriend in a large 1 bedroom, with a view of the NYC skyline, and a successful career producing video. And here I am with a one way ticket to a place I’ve always dreamed of living. I had just gotten my Italian citizenship just two months before, and it seemed like everything was falling into place. I looked at Davide — his wild curly hair, warm smile, and his arm reassuringly clenched to my shoulder. “It’s all going to be ok, my Lulu,” he said as he kissed my forehead. We’re doing it!