de(tales): dolce vita
Emily is the first online friend I ever met in person. She lives not far from me. In person, she is just as delightful and personable as on Twitter and her blog. I know that you'll enjoy meeting her (and hearing this delicious story). Enjoy, friends.
Posso avere un cappuccino decaffeinato?
That was one of the first phrases I learned by heart while studying in Italy. (Apparently I hadn't embraced my love of caffeine just yet, or maybe I was always wired from the shots of espresso my host mom made for me, when I ordered my afternoon coffee.)
It was received with utter patience by the mom and son duo who ran Dolce Vita, a favorite pasticceria in town. A friend and I had a standing cappuccino and cookie date at the little shop every Wednesday after our photography class. Every week quickly became every other day and the young Italian man who most often took our order went from guarded to bemused as we deliberated over which delectable cookie would go with our coffee.
The shiny gold trays that held neat stacks of cookies and cakes were like warm rays of comfort to my soul. Occhi, the Italian word for eyes, was the perfect name for the cookie that most often accompanied my cappuccino.
Scalloped edges decorated two thin sugar cookies held together by Nutella. A round hole in the top cookie gave the illusion that the Nutella filling was staring at you. I always had the distinct feeling that brown pupil knew more about me than the other students in my program did.
It seemed to know I needed to be recognized in a foreign land, that even if it was an Italian twenty-something who probably laughed at my accent and wondered why it took me so long to pick a cookie, I just needed to be known. It seemed to know I needed a routine, a predictability amidst the chaos of a new culture. It seemed to know the best way for me to immerse myself in this small medieval town was to eat those eyes and sip a tiny coffee.
When my few months in Italy were drawing to a close, I knew I couldn't leave without a reminder of that place, those eyes. The tastes and smells wouldn't linger forever. Photos are nice, but the memories evoked would only penetrate so deep. I wanted a tangible reminder of that routine, that familiarity, that part of what Italy meant to me.
Both mom and son were at the shop when I walked in. "Cappuccino decaffeinato?" he asked before I could open my mouth. My smile was infused with the sadness of goodbye as I nodded and said, "ma, prima..." But, first... "Posso acquistare una tazza?" Can I buy a cup? I knew my phraseology was off, but the mom caught on as I gestured to the ceramic espresso cups.
I tried to explain that my studies were almost done and we wouldn't be around anymore. The cup was something to remember our time at Dolce Vita by. Mom and son spoke to each other in rapid Italian. She turned softened eyes to me and began wrapping a cup in butcher paper, refusing my payment.
Molte grazie. I received her gift with many thanks.
That little cup has traveled with me as I've changed houses and life stages. It now sits in my thrifted china hutch, the gold letters spelling out Dolce Vita hidden unless you know to look for them. Whenever I catch a glimpse I am reminded of those shiny gold trays and the eye that saw more than my stomach.
The sweet life, indeed.
Emily is a Southern California native starting a new adventure in Northern Idaho with her youth pastor husband, Tim. They became a family of three in January. She loves partnering with Tim in ministry and spends her free time snuggling with her son, baking, reading, and crafting. You can find her blogging about marriage, motherhood, and ministry at emilycgardner.com