Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Real Renaissance Woman

It is midnight on a tiny cobblestone street in Florence and my grandmother is perched on a moped, posing for the "paparazzi" like a 1905s Italian movie star.

She smiles. She's serious. Now sexy. She's working her shawl like a superhero would finesse a cape.

Behind the cameras, we, her grandchildren, giggle, loving every second of this impromptu photo shoot. Here we are in Italy, just the girls, three generations bound by one spirit. And here's Gram, showing us you're never too old to hop onto a random moped just for fun.

We decided to travel to Rome and Florence for all of the obvious reasons: The Coliseum, the Vatican, the Prada, the Gucci. Gram packed turkey sandwiches and snacks, kissed my grandpop good-bye, and jetted off to Rome with my sister and me.

We arrived at our hotel nine hours later to meet up with my cousin. My aunt decided to surprise us all. She showed up at the hotel as we screamed with excitement. The girls had arrived!

The Italians were warm and inviting. Everywhere we went, Gram was treated like a rock star. Men sent her complimentary bottles of wine at dinner; women introduced themselves while shopping. Maybe it was her sheer effervescence from being on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with her three granddaughters; maybe it was her resemblance to Sophia Loren.

Whatever it was, Gram's spirit wowed us too.

Gram had undergone two heart surgeries in the last few years, yet nothing was going to slow her down. Up at 7 every morning, she would roust us out of bed, lace up her brand-new Nikes, and take us out on the town all day and night.

Exhausted after walking miles, Gram was still the life of the party back in our hotel room. Whether she was posing for funny pictures in her floral robe or telling us old stories, Gram kept us laughing in our beds until 2 a.m. She was in her glory.

We toured Rome and Florence, saw the most spectacular sights, and met some wonderful characters along the way. But the most unforgettable part of the journey was the journey itself: my family discovering the world together; the matriarch instilling in the rest of us a thirst for life, adventure, and simple thrills. Like laughing about the good 'ol days while making new memories. Like eating pasta in the finest Roman restaurants but missing South Philly. Like sitting in a piazza basking in the sun, remembering summers in Ventnor.

Like hopping on a moped at midnight on a tiny cobblestone street in Florence, reminding your grandchildren that life is meant to be lived.


  1. Wow, Stacy, when was this trip? I came close to tears reading this post b/c I met one of my grandmothers only once in my lifetime (and the meeting ended with her cursing out my mother - she was mentally ill) and my other grandmother, although still living and fairly healthy, has ironically hardly lived a day in her life (depressed, pessimistic, difficult to be around). You are so lucky to have such an inspiring grandmother (and you know it too) and so many fun memories with her. I wish she was my grandma too!

    Lauren Sands

  2. Thanks, Lauren! This trip was in 2001 and my fabulous Gram has barely slowed down a bit since then. And, yes, I am so incredibly lucky to have her in my life. She definitely knows how to enjoy the ride.