Like many of my friends back in Montevallo, my classes starts back Monday at TU Dortmund. Honestly, one of the main reasons I almost backed out of going to Germany for this semester was that I knew because of the semester schedule here (it isn't over until the end of January), I would be spending Christmas away from my family. I can deal with homesickness and missing friends, but being without family on Christmas was something that made me sad to think about.
However while I still missed my family, this Christmas was a dream come true that I have had for years: reuniting with the neighbors who adopted my family when we lived in Sicily. And because of some top-notch Facebook sleuthing from my mom (do you know how many Giuseppe's there are in Sicily?), we got back in touch! And when I asked when a good time would visit would be, they said they would love to have me over for Christmas. Living in Sicily and being friends with their family is a very cherished memory in my family because of how often we moved around due to being a military family before my dad retired from the Navy. We lived in Sicily 4 years, which makes it the place I've lived longest outside of Alabama out of my total of a dozen or so moves (military brat for life!). They had our first address after we moved but after that they couldn't send anything. And we never really knew how much our families had meant to each other after all this time until I saw our family portrait on their wall in the middle of portraits of her kids & grandkids, and I told them that we did the same. Enzo, Enza, Carmelo, Giana and their son and his fiance all met me at the airport. Hugs all around, and Enza & Giana deathgripped my arm and kept joking that I was their prisoner. I was home!
Here is a picture of me in front of my old house.
I stayed with Enzo and Enza (landlords of the house)the first half and Giana and Carmelo (neighbors) the second. And because of Skype, I was able to let everyone talk with my parents on christmas eve! I will always remember Ginevra (Giana & Carmelo's son Giuseppe got married to Loredona, and that's one of their daughters) waiting for midnight so Babbo Natale would bring her gifts. When my family was on skype I looked at her and said "tua famiglia americana"- your American family. Her mom taught her how to say Merry Christmas in English, it was adorable. Dortmund has a Italian class, maybe I can study Italian next semester as well and start relearning something I was fluent in as a kid.
Ginevra is in both pictures, the woman holding the baby (Virginia) is Loredona, and her husband Giuseppe. His parents Carmelo and Giana (aka my surrogate grandmother while I was unable to see mine for 4 years)are with me and Ginevra in the other picture. The bought me the outfit as well as other things as a gift for Christmas. They wanted me to have "Italian style". Like I said, they treated me like family.
I felt so lucky to be able to reconnect after all this time! It meant so much to me reminiscing with them and making new memories. I also spent time with sara and her family, as well as Enzo's son Peppe and his family. I promised to come back in June for Nicko & Esther's wedding, she even asked me to be a bridesmaid. It was a truly magical trip more perfect that I could have hoped for, filled with love, happy tears, memories and Sicilian food. Giana said she always wondered how I turned out, and was so proud of me. I must be doing something right! When it was time to leave, I had to fight back tears. I said goodbye to everyone either night before or that morning, and when they took me to the airport they made sure my bag was stuffed with food in case I got hungry during my trip. Giana now has the permanent address of a house we have a mortgage on, and not the address of a house on a military base that we will leave in a few months or year.
If you would like to see more pictures from those 8 days and are a facebook friend of mine, I was an album up. Here's a picture of Esther, Sara and I sightseeing that Enzo took:
That trip was so emotional that I basically hibernated for a few days when I got back, and then enjoyed a trip to Cologne with my Taiwanese roommate Chia-chen and her friends to see New Year's Eve fireworks over the Rhine river! Said goodbye to an amazing year, and said hello to another one. 2011 will be a hard act to follow.