Yesterday marked the celebration of 20 years of me.
Growing up with a summer birthday, I have spent every June 15th with my family and whichever friends happened to be in town. Also I’ve spent every birthday in America. So, needless to say, this year was very different.
To be honest, I was nervous. What if my friends got sick of entertaining me? What if I messed up my dinner reservation because I still can’t seem to get used to using military time? What if I can’t understand the menu? What if it rains?
These trivial worries disappeared Wednesday morning.
Florence is magical, and I’ve known that since the moment I arrived, but for some reason I became so much more aware of it as the day progressed. People always ask you if you feel any different after aging another year, and for me the answer is always no. However, when asked that question yesterday I had to admit that something about me had changed. I don’t believe it happened overnight, rather I think this whole experience has changed me and it wasn’t until I was asked this question that I truly took notice.
The truth is I felt more at ease yesterday than I’ve felt in a very long time. As we sat at dinner I took in the ambiance of the restaurant. The live piano music, the smell of the flower stand, the sun shining through the skylight in the center of the room, the arches connecting walls of exposed brick revealing layers of Italian architecture. As we sat at a rooftop bar later in the light I could see the whole city lit up from the Duomo, to the Arno River, to the Piazza de Michelangelo. The atmosphere buzzed with the energy of hundreds of elegant parties due to Florence fashion week, and my friends and I fantasized about getting an invite from Chanel who had rented out the whole left side of the building. It was an ethereal night, and it wasn’t just the city to which I need to thank.
My friends and family helped make my birthday the most special I’ve ever had. My roommates treated me to dinner and a night on the town and let me choose everything from where we sat in the restaurant to where we would eat gelato. And, speaking of gelato, when I ordered the four-scoop cone, they surprised me with jumbo candles (one 2 and one 0) to put on top. They even lit them and sang happy birthday in the middle of the street–some Italians chimed in in broken English.
Even those who were miles away made me feel so loved. Every family member and friend who sent wishes made me feel connected to home–some even sent texts right at midnight (Italian time) taking into account the time change, and others even wrote letters via snail mail for me to open when the time came.
I don’t mean to sound as if I’m bragging, I’m just so truly grateful for the day I got to have and I feel the need to acknowledge that it isn’t something I took for granted. If anything, the day was a testimony to the fact that no matter how much a place changes you and no matter how physically removed you are from home, the relationships you have with those you love can transcend time and space. This birthday abroad made me feel both closer to where I am and closer to those who are so far away.
And in case anyone was curious, it didn’t end up raining. Not a cloud in the sky.