Cousins, Sisters, and Singing Strangers

The day started with lots of coffee…

When you are in a tiny trattoria, and there is a big long table of Italians celebrating a birthday…and when they are finished singing and the Spaniards at the next table follow with happy birthday in Spanish…and when they turn to you and look with expectant smiles,…just know that yes, you are obligated to sing happy birthday in your native language.

Even if you are a Korean guy sitting there all by yourself. (That guy is officially my hero.) True story and it happened at lunch on our way to the Colosseum, where my cousin and aunt smuggled in contraband leftover pizza.

My aunt casually holding a rain-soaked pizza box like a business portfolio. No one suspects a thing.

The nice thing about cousins is they get it. I mean, maybe you don’t see each other for a few years, and when you finally get together, there are things you don’t even have to explain because they already know. Your deeper backstory is their deeper back story.

After purchasing cheap €5 umbrellas from a street vendor to protect us from the sudden downpour, we finally made our way into the protection of the cool stone shade of the Colosseum. Traveling with a group is a different experience – this one meanders this way, another two trail behind that way, no one seems to have a working phone, and my inner teacher wants to bark, “Everyone get in one line!” As some of our group lost orbit, my cousin Nicole and I were standing with my mother, who was telling one of those stories that sounds something like, “…and then Diana DeFazio’s brother Mario – the one who had five teeth pulled – he lives on the corner next to the Russos, the ones who owned the shop where my grandmother bought coppacol’, and their cousin Lydia still lives in Ferrazzano on the street below grandpa’s…”

And there it was, the glance between cousins. Then the pee-your-pants laughing. We get it.

My mom and my aunt are the two oldest out of eight. They are the same and they are different, but there is some kind of special bond they share from being the two that existed together before the others. Before the first boy came. They will always have each other’s back somehow. This trip, together, to the country of their grandparents, the country that gave the smells and sounds and tastes to their childhood, is something my mom has been anxious to share with her sister. Months of planning on my mom’s part to make sure everything goes smoothly, to make sure my aunt is comfortable and at ease, and they are like two peas in a pod walking around the Colosseum together.

How is our pizza looking at the end of the Colosseum tour?

David and his sister are two middles. She took the train from Paris just to meet her little brother for dinner in Trastevere in Rome. Dinner. In Rome. And a train back to Paris the next morning. .

That’s love…

A fountain on Via Giulia that shall henceforth be known as Furry Freak Brother Fountain; the Tiber at night.

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