Posts in "Old Friend from Far Away"
Pranzo | Freckled Italian

"Let's try not to eat so much for breakfast today because we're going over to my tia's house for lunch later," my mom explained to us over her small cup of strong, sweet coffee. The hot Italian sun beat down on us despite the early hour. It was July.

We were in Avezzano, a small mountain town about an hour away from Rome, and we had just woken up and were eating breakfast outside on the patio of another cousin's home. Breads and cookies and chocolate and fruit were laid out on a tray before us and I remember thinking how much I preferred drinking coffee like an adult and being able to eat cookies for breakfast. I was eleven.

We spent the afternoon shopping and trying not to eat. I was amazed by how beautiful Italians make everything--an espresso becomes a work of art with crema, steaming in all its perfection in a tiny ceramic cup and saucer. My mother purchased a bracelet and I watched in awe as the saleswoman put it in a box and tied a gold ribbon around it, then placed it in a small shopping bag with purple tissue paper and handed it across the counter with a smile on her tan face. "Grazie, signora." Even their words are beautiful.

Later in the afternoon we drove closer to Rome to my great-aunt's house, and the lunch festivities began. My great-aunt, my mom's tia is a small, round woman who wears floral dresses and brought out plate after plate of delicious dishes. First, two kinds of pasta, then chicken, then beef. Lasagna and salads followed. We ate for two hours, and my younger brother and I stuffed ourselves until we could barely breathe.

My dad sat next to us, laughing and telling us about the first time he ever went to my mom's house when they were first dating. My grandpa Albino also had several dishes ready, but my dad filled himself up on the first pasta, unaware that there was more to come. Today, he only took a little of each course--he had remembered and he was prepared for the marathon lunch banquet.

My mom sat in the middle of the table, rapidly conversing with her family in Italian and sometimes turning to us to say something in English. She's trilingual but says Italian is the hardest. Without knowing for sure, it's impossible to tell which is her first language.

After all the plates were cleared, my great-aunt came out bearing dessert, and I somehow managed to sneak away from the table before tiramisu was forced upon me. I walked into the backyard and sat beneath a shady fig tree. The afternoon had edged into evening and it was finally a bit cooler, but I was uncomfortably full and told myself I wouldn't be able to eat again for days.

I laid myself down in the grass to take a nap, but there was a low-hanging branch and a dewy purple fig sat right before my face, so I picked it and ate it and then fell asleep.


This post was originally published on February 26, 2011. I wrote it in college, but I've been thinking about it a lot this week (there are figs everywhere right now! At the grocery store, on Instagram, in my kitchen, on my plate). I had to do some digging to find this post (I thought I had accidentally deleted it), so I thought I'd re-publish it for any of you who haven't been around since 2011--can you believe I've been writing on this blog for that long? If you have a favorite vacation/travel memory, I'd love to hear it.

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Pulled Between Two Places

There's a place that exists between fear and assurance, and I tend to dwell there. I want to be confident and enthusiastic about life and all of its possibilities, and most of the time I am. But sometimes I feel overwhelmed.

I panic about being far from my family and our friends. I miss my mom and my dad and my brother; and I am starting to yearn for warmer weather and a neighborhood full of friends. I want to be adventurous and free-spirited and easygoing, but often I am cautious and moody. We're nearing the time in Rob's career where talks about a new project are taking place. We might stay in Minneapolis, we might not. We might go back to Virginia, but we might not do that either. I would rather be the version of myself that asks, What's next? Let's do it!  instead of the one who demands, What's next? I need to know now.

The more controlling side of myself has given way to the braver me plenty of times these past seven months. There have been countless opportunities for growth, and I am so grateful for them. But there's still a side of me that can make herself sick with worry. There's always a chance to let go a little more, and I try to do it every day.

This post is in response to the following prompt: "Often we are pulled between two places...Tell us about them. Give us the pull, the conflict, the desire." (From Old Friend from Far Away, page 204.) You can visit this post for next week's prompt.

Image credit: V.A. Photography

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A Few of My Favorite Books

I try really hard to always be reading a book. Sometimes I'm reading more than one, but that often doesn't end well. I tried to read

The Hobbit

 and re-read

Jane Eyre

over Christmas and as a result, they both lie half-finished and untouched for some time on my bedside table. They are beautiful books, but they didn't stick with me enough to go on. But there are books (and characters) that have stayed with me throughout the years.


taught me that there's more to the world than I can ever see or know.


is sad and beautiful and overflowing with richness and showed me just how much power there is in literature.


 taught me about perseverance and complexity.

Where the Wild Things Are

 taught me the impact a picture book could have and ignited my passion for children's literature.

What books spoke to you in a way you didn't expect?

This post is in response to the following prompt: "

Tell about periods when you haven't read. What were you doing? Where and when do you read best?

" (From 

Old Friend from Far Away

, page 160.) As you can see, you can take a prompt and go any direction with it. If you've written a response of your own, please share it below in the comments! 

P.S. Visit 

this post

 for next week's prompt.

P.P.S. If you'd like to join The Eighty Twenty's book club, you can learn more



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