Professionally I have a unique opportunity to work with people all over the world. Generally though the people I work with speak English (or at least some). I am definitely one of those pathetic Americans that only speak my mother tongue. Not that I haven’t tried. I studied French for several years, Latin for a very short, tragic period and Spanish as well. The result? I can ask for a beer or a bathroom in a couple of languages…. but only in the present tense. I simply don’t have an ear for language.
My husband Arthur on the other hand, lived in Italy for several years (though awhile ago) and while he’s far from fluent he definitely has an ear for Italian. Most importantly, he’s not afraid to try. I am jealous but also thankful as recently we had a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Italy… with a local (and his wife).
They are our dear friends. A special couple. She is an original Floridian who is smart, savvy, witty and sassy. He is warm, sensitive, and laughs easily. And… he is a true local from a small hilltop town in Tuscany. They met while she was working in Tuscany (so yes, she speaks Italian), quickly fell in love, married and now they live in Austin. It’s an awesome love story and we feel so lucky to have these generous, warm passionate people in our lives. And when they invited us to join their annual visit to his hometown and family, we jumped.
But truly my best memories are the people. And the pasta.
Funny because I was so nervous going in. Knowing that most of his family didn’t speak a lick of English. How would we communicate? What would I do – being the only person that literally spoke zero Italian? Would I be left in a corner, isolated and alone?
I expect they were a bit wary too. Who were these two Americans their son and daughter in law were bringing to their home? Would they like us? Would we appreciate what they had to offer?
In fact we all quickly discovered that our inability to speak the same language was merely a minor inconvenience. Between our friends who eagerly translated, and my hubby’s ability to understand and at least attempt to interpret.. and then simply pantomime, hand gestures or sometimes simply smiling and laughing, language just didn’t matter.
Our very first night we were greeted in their home with an incredible family dinner,including home-made pasta, fowl they had raised, and the most devastating garden grown baby artichokes that I swore were boiled in butter (um, they weren’t, they naturally tasted like that). It quickly proved how sharing a wonderful meal is so universal and so personal. It brings people together like nothing else.
And that was just the beginning. Over the course of the week they cooked for us and we cooked for them. Arthur had the cojones to treat the whole Italian family to pizza made by an American…of course topped with arugula from their garden. It was a huge hit.
And we were treated to a special afternoon learning to make “Mama’s Lasagna” including insider tips and tricks for making pasta from scratch. They gifted us olive oil from their garden and brought wine from their vineyard. And we ate and laughed and ate some more. They were wonderful, kind, welcoming and generous people.
And we walked away realizing that generosity, warmth, and love transcend language.
Words weren’t necessary.