Nearly once a week, I turn to Matt and ask, "Remember when we went to Venice?" Yes, of course he does. We all do. And now that we're in the cold damp days of late winter, I look back on those exceptionally hot and humid and brilliant and heavenly 36 hours with more and more frequency, more and more sentimentality, more and more thanksgiving. We went to Venice! A Kansas girl in Venice. Who'd've thought?
Do you remember Asher at the back of the Vaporetto? Watching all the buildings and boats pass us by, eyeing the bridges with wonder. The other two were hot and tired, but he stood at the stern to witness a new and strange world pass him by. He wore an Avengers cap and turned to me, smiling big and red. Not even a word.
Do you remember the pizza, I ask. Eating it on the steps of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute as pigeons eyed our crusts and the sun slowly moved across the shadows, us moving with it to keep just slightly cooler. We passed the sunset minutes there and counted boats and water busses and pinched ourselves at the brilliance of a summer evening overlooking San Marco.
Do you remember Ella, collapsing on sidewalks and benches from the heat, wearing her "cold-shoulder" shirt I begrudgingly bought her, the one with "America!" in big, motorcycle script. She bought herself watermelon sunglasses and a straw hat from Penny's and looked like the coolest, tiniest hipster. She stood quietly still in the cathedrals, chased Asher down alleys, inhaled the fresh fruit, begged for coffee.
Or do you remember the water fountains - bubblers for you Wisconsiners - peeking out of stucco corners, filling our plastic bottles with fresh lukewarm water, kids dipping their hot heads under its flow? I carried two water bottles my purse, Matt had one in each pocket, and Jack did, too. The kids still rebelled and complained at every turn, but we ignored them. Refilled their bottles. Rationed out gelato like the life-saving medicine it was.
See? Super happy.
Do you remember Jackson? How he stepped off the bus and sullenly said, "I'm being burned alive"? He tried to love it, apart from the heat. And six months later he admits he really did. He grew big and strong on that trip, taller than his dad, a Royals baseball hat bobbing through the crowds, hunting down his next pizza, dreaming of Rome.
And do you remember that cafe, with the old man? The chocolate and alcohol and the final two brioche pastries waiting just for us. We threw back those tiny cappuccinos standing at the counter while the kids watched cartoons back at the Airbnb and I realised we had finally plateaued into big-kid holiday blessings. We could leave them for a bit, walk the streets for a bit, eat watermelon slices out of plastic cups and drink ice cold prosecco on one of a thousand tiny bridges for a bit.
We took our mini dates first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening and our final memory is of another cafe, another brioche, the sun reflecting off the waters of and rooftops of Giudecca. I don't have enough adjectives, not nearly enough vocabulary. It was... otherworldly. A world away. A picture in a photobook, a page of a calendar. A scene in a movie.
And for 36 hours, it was ours.