The words are magic. The reality is, too. It’s also terrifying, comical, humbling, and stressful.
The magic lies in turning the key and opening the door onto a home I only see a few times a year; hearing the church bells down the block mingle with robust, vowel-rounded snippets of curb conversations behind me; seeing the Maiella mountains from the upstairs windows; running to the market to lay in the requisite olive oil and tomatoes and garlic and parsley and wine and freshly-baked bread; turning on RAI TV to watch a dubbed episode of Murder, She Wrote; knowing that Venice or Bologna or Naples is only a car or train ride away.
The magic does a disappearing act when the wifi doesn’t work and I don’t know how to fix it; or I wake to banging on the door and palpitate as I run down downstairs, afraid I’ve inadvertently violated some local ordinance; or I notice that that crack in the wall is getting bigger and I’ll have to reinforce the foundation soon. When I admit to myself that I’ve made terrible mistakes in restoring the place and don’t know when I’ll be able to fix them, and that I really don’t know how to get things done over here and have only one true friend in the whole country; and that, if it weren’t for him, I could not keep this house running and how on earth did I get myself into this.
I’m almost criminally unqualified to own a home on foreign soil. I’ve never owned real estate anywhere, so don’t speak Homeowner in the U.S., never mind in Italy.
I’m flummoxed by all the switches on circuit breakers, my eyes glaze over when folks debate the merits of septic vs sewer, and I still can’t keep straight the temperature (Celsius or Fahrenheit) the house should be kept at under various conditions so the pipes don’t freeze.
Be that as it may, here I am. Or maybe I should say there I am because, at the moment, I’m writing from my apartment in New York.
But I have a little house in Italy, in the region of Abruzzo, in a little town called Fossacesia.