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Never thought something like this could happen


On Super Bowl Sunday, the Hubster and I boarded a flight for Milan.  By the grace of the United Airlines Fairy, we both got upgraded to “pinkies out” for the long flight on a nicely appointed 747.  I had two glasses of a delicious Riesling, and then slept like a baby while we crossed the Atlantic.  Here we were, two unemployed professionals, flying first-class to Europe! 

I never thought something like this could happen to us at this time of our lives.  The idea of going to Italy, our first trip to Europe, seemed, well, impossible.  First of all, we had no income.  Hubster’s current project was delayed until June. My semester classes were cancelled until Fall.  Things looked kind of grim. 

“Perhaps we should grow our own vegetables and get a cow,” I said, brightly, while we sat at our kitchen table, eating our humble Costco organic tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

“We will just have to watch our spending,” Hubster countered. “Everything will work out, you’ll see,” he added with a hug.

And that right there is the difference between us.  Like Dorothy, he is from the mid-west, the Heartland: the only place where things always work out.  And I am from here, this very corner of Pennsylvania, where you “daresn’t” go traipsing around the world on almost no money or get your distelfinks in an uproar. And no grexin’ about it either.  I could only see it not working out. 

Perhaps it’s a difference in people, and not the stoic East Coast versus happy-go-lucky heartland thing. 

Here’s how I saw our future:  the two of us and the dreary days—dried up and brown winter days—watching the hours, waiting for Wheel of Fortune’s Pat and Vanna to shine brightly colored crossword challenges through our despair.

On a Sunday over our family dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, my daughter Kay said, “You two should go to Italy.” 

“Italy?!  Honey, your Dad and I must watch our spending.  How could we possibly afford the flights?” I asked my first-born-and-most-practical-child while my mind went straight to negative anticipation, sorted and readied a herd of thoughts on why this Italy thing is a bad, impossible idea. 

“Mom,” Kay said, in her no-nonsense get-it-together tone, “You and Dad have frequent flier miles that you can use to for flights, and you are hoarding hotel points.  You can do this!  It is possible,” she huffed, and headed for my office.  

“But we’re saving our points,” I said, the thing I’ve been saying for the past thirty years. 

“Mom, this trip is what you’ve been saving those points for,” she said, standing, her hands on her hips.  She smiled at me, sweetly, like I was very elderly and somewhat simple. 

It was then that I recognized that Hubster and I are in what our financial advisor calls, “the go-go-go days,” the ten or so years that precede the slow-slow-slow days where the clock is ticking and there is no more “saving” points for the future.  No more time to put things off.  As they say, the future is now.

“Let’s check mileage points online,” Kay said, and I followed her to my office.  I logged in and found an impressive number of points, but not enough for two round-trips to Rome.

Kay said, “Let me drive,” and she took over the mouse and my seat.  Next thing we were scanning the mileage chart for Super Saver fares. She added Milan as an airport option, “It’s closer to Venice, Mom,” she said, and next thing you know Hubster and I were going to Italy.

The best thing about having low expectations for a new experience is that when you actually do it, each event is like a little miracle!

While the sun set we climbed the stairs of Milan’s duomo and looked out over the city.  We took the train, La Frecciarosa, to Venice.  We cooked in Florence and drank Chianti in Tuscany.  I saw the “Venus de Milo” painting at the Uffitzi Gallery, and so much art at the Vatican I thought I’d go blind.  

And guess what?  Everything worked out!