“Meet me at the fountain at 3:15.”
I finished ramblings on Blessed Umiliana dei Cerchi throwing in key words “local cult” and “importance of the elaborate veil” as necessary. At 3:05, my last midterm exam was done. I step through the arch of the Umbra Institute and onto the main city center, Piazza di IV Novembre. I weave through the newly arrived chocolate festival stands and extra tourists that literally appeared overnight, heading for the meeting spot. I don’t see them. I am a little early. I scan my surroundings more closely. There are people everywhere, but I don’t see a particularly special couple. They are not on the steps, but as I look a little higher, I catch a glimpse of a middle-aged man and woman. Their appearance is intimately familiar. Yet, seeing them across the world, in Perugia, a place no one from home has been, is more than bizarre.
They catch sight of me a few seconds before. Excuse the cliché, but there is just no other description for what happened. When I see them, my soul soars. In an instant, the deepest part of me, far deeper than my physical body, exudes joy. Mama and Hoffa! Backpack still strapped, I run across the piazza and up the stairs, almost tripping several times (but I do not). Then, I bear hug my parents. For six weeks, I have seen their pictures, I have heard their voices, but their physical presence is so close. They are real, here, in the flesh, and it’s almost too good to be true.
But it is true, and thus begins a week I will treasure forever. Chocolate festivities and a personalized tour of my Italian hometown. Lazy mornings and unadjusted internal clocks in a small, undersupplied agriturismo. Five days in a manual Fiat verging on toy size. Winding roads, close calls, car-sick stomachs, and a confused GPS . Classic Tuscan views – charming medieval towns, regal rows of cypress trees, grape vineyards, and golden hills. Two-hour pasta meals twice a day. Food festival, wine tasting, Duomo climb, Cinque Terre trek, and countless cappuccini. A (very) few moments of tension reminded me that I am their daughter and they are my parents. We went at the typically slow, rather unplanned Compton pace. It can still be frustrating, but I am also becoming more patient and appreciating the people I am with over the activities we do.
I savored the slow passing of each day, but the week disappeared all too quickly. Soon, instead of hugs of greeting and exuberant joy, I was squeezing two of my favorite people goodbye. I was sad, but I have grown up. I live independently now, and I knew I would be returning to a good place and even better people. I smiled, blew a kiss, and boarded. The train began to pull away. They stood on the platform waving, though I knew they couldn’t see me through the tinted windows. I waved back, and when I sat down, a buildup of my own tears surprised me. My heart had a more difficult time parting than my head, and as the invisible tie between us pulled tighter, the tears kept brimming. I closed my eyes and exhaled, trying to gain my composure. Goodbye Mama and Hoffa. I’m so thankful for this trip. Near or far, I love you.
For the rest of my life, I can talk about the week I spent in Italy with my parents. I’ll remember these precious moments – the hello, the travel, and the goodbye – forever.

I saw them, and I ran


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