I have admired this city in countless stock photos and numerous travel blogs. I draw a deep breath as a futile attempt to calm myself. The van jumps around the cobblestone road and I clumsily juggle the camera in my hand. I breath again but it does not work. I leap out of the van, my arm and eyes wide open. The Eternal City greets me similarly.
I wait, bouncing on the balls of my feet, for the Italian gelato that boast their iridescent color. The Vatican City’s vast walls cast a shadow over my back. Eyeing my serving of gelato over the others, I walked back over to the rest of my family; the fourteen members overwhelmed the modest pizzeria. I pass gelato around to everyone and we all take the highly anticipated first taste, with my father recording the entire process.
Taking my focus away from my dessert, which took an insurmountable effort on its own, I study the scenery before me. My grandparents take long, small bites while looking around carefully; they carry grateful smiles from seeing all of us reunited after too many years. My siblings are with our cousin, all messily engrossed in their food to notice the attention they attract. My parents watch over them, my father through a camera lense and my mother with her own attentive eyes. My father directs the camera’s crisp clicking sound towards each family member.
The pizzeria blurred away and the foreign cars turned mute. It took a trip to Italy and a couple bites of gelato to unveil what makes this moment more vivid than the rest. In this time and place, I witnessed the immense emotions that blossomed and developed between us all. We appreciated not only the opportunity to adventure into the streets of Italy but also the simple fact that we were spending it with each other. Having the company of family even amplified our admiration for the view before us.
We huddled together through the line into the Vatican like a fluid unit that squeezed through crevices but never split apart. Once we entered the ethereal city, we could not help our wandering eyes from taking in the environment. After we congregated to an open area, our tourist guide took a picture of the fifteen beaming faces that smiled back.
I smiled down at the ring on my hand, a simple souvenir. It became a tangible storage for the memories I made with my family. I would wear this ring every single day with love, as if I was a married woman. Rolling the ring between my fingers, I recount the simple instances of our trip. The flavor of gelato pops back into my mouth along with my school lunch. Confusion in Spanish class carries the foreign Italian street signs to my thoughts.
Gradually I believed that this was no superficial trip. I will have no need for that Christmas dinner menu because I remember how the appetizer bread crunched between my teeth and who sat around me in identical joy. The photo of myself, walking around Italy, will remind me of nothing new for I still remember how the cobblestone and marble felt under my feet and echoed my steps. This trip will not be kept in my head but in my heart instead.
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