I pull aside the wispy ocean-colored curtains – the fabric seems weaved out of air stained green and blue – and open the window. Sunlight the color of custard cream streams in, rich yellow bathing the room with a heavenly glow. Nearly-invisible motes fall and rise on the white sheets and whimsically patterned pillows and onto my hands, still gently holding the wooden frame. I look out: below me, the canals croon fluid songs about dusk and a woman in a bright apron emerges to hang long underwear out to dry. A Venetian morning has just begun.
In August of 2007, I stayed in Venice for two days, in a dream-like state of absolute infatuation with a city so intoxicatingly beautiful that every glance down an alleyway was snapshot-worthy. Every pathway, too, would inevitably have some small child – dressed in little trousers and a white blouse- skipping through it, or a large, old dog dozing, chimes ringing delicately or a young man with an old spirit playing magical melodies on a string instrument. Venice is an island of dreams, where everything is seen as if through a piece of Murano millefiori glass – multicolored, enchanting and penetrated with streaks of light. Here, the Carnevale spirit lingers year-round. Native Venetians walk with charmed sparks in eyes peering out from masks, silken ribbons flutter from streetlamps. They say that when the Republic of Venice needed to repay an enormous war debt, gold paint was scraped off every spare object so that now, when you walk down the alleys, gold bits sparkle like fairy dust in the smile of a street corner’s mouth.
When my family and I (my grandfather, his wife, my mother, my uncle and my twin brother) came to Venice, we did the typical tourist gig during the daytime- visiting San Marco’s Plaza, where we stood like scarecrows with crumbs on our arms and pigeons alighting softly andcooing lullabies; saw the ivory-white Bridge of Tears; ate melon gelato, drank dark, strong espresso under a striped umbrella in a piazzaand argued about the carved wooden ceilings of the Doge’s Palace. Our day was thus full of generally pedestrian experiences.
But in the nighttime, the Venetian magic settled in while on a midnight ride by the only female gondolier in Venice coincidenetally promoted by our hotel, Albergo San Samuele. On a humid, navy-blue night in August, we piled into a gondola and traveled through the city, with our gondolier telling us about her groundbreaking status in the Venetian water world, her short hair rising lightly in the breeze and the dark, handsome gondola flowing confidently upon the waters. On either side, golden squares of light burned in apartment windows, adolescents dangled their feet in the canal and above, a patchwork of stars glistened. Occasionally, we would drift past another gondola, and an accordion player – rotund body, combed gray hair, flopsy hat, red cheeks and infectious grin- would serenade the world, fingers pressing down on the keys and voice caressing the smooth Italian vowels. In the dark, my family was a little closer and more united. My grandfather and his wife live in Russia; my uncle, in Israel; my mother and twin in America. The situation’s rather strained – suffice to say that too often there are obstacles barring us from reconnecting, multiple differences that limit our communication. We are too often separated by distance and the enormous oceans that fill that gap- but this time, with all of us packed into a tiny gondola and the music of Venice unraveling in the evening air, the waters brought us together.
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