My parents had an agreement while I was growing up: if my dad were to go on a business trip and miss Valentine’s Day or my mom’s birthday, we were getting a dog. My dad was an obsessive compulsive cleaner and a dog to him was a fur and mess producer. So when his company told him he would have to go on a trip that would make him miss both Valentine’s Day and my mom’s birthday in the same year, he was in a predicament. I was delighted – I was getting ready for two puppies to be joining our household.
However, my dad had another plan in mind. He decided to take us with him on his trip to Rome. What started out as a semi-serious ultimatum between my parents, turned out to be the trip of a lifetime for my whole family.
Despite getting a serious bout of stomach flu halfway through the trip and getting sick next to a Vespa on the cobblestone streets of the Vatican City, I only lost a day and gained memories that I will never forget. Sights like the Coliseum were awe-inspiring. Still to this day, I can remember the feeling I got when I heard there were lions pacing the maze below some 2,000 years before. Years later I learned the more complete, sordid history that wasn’t as appropriate for my 12 year old ears at the time.
We went to every church we could find, and there are a lot. Each one was unique and so ornately beautiful that it is hard to describe. My 12-year-old self was amazed at each one, and even though my feet were tired, I’m so glad my parents kept urging us on to the next one. John Paul II held a mass that we were able to attend, which was really a once in a lifetime experience, though none of it was in English. We also had the chance to go underground and see catacombs. It was such a solemn (and a little scary, I’ll admit) experience, and one that really makes you realize your mortality. But it also made me realize the huge significance of history and the importance of realizing your place in it. Here I was, a 12-year-old from Minnesota, sharing the space that some of the most prolific and compassionate Saints were laid to rest. Seeing these people and artifacts that are thousands of years old, kind of put into perspective whether or not I had gotten a chocolate heart from my crush on Valentine’s Day that year.
On the subject of chocolate, one cannot think of Rome without thinking of the amazing gelato. With gelato shops on every corner, it was easy and pretty much necessary to have a cone about four time a day (I’m not exaggerating here). On another note, pasta aficionados will probably cringe to read that I hated the pasta there. I did not like the salty noodles and sauce, but keep in mind I only liked spaghetti and red sauce with no visible spices, onions, or tomatoes. I would love to go back now and eat my way through all of the restaurants and gelato stands in Rome.
The winding streets were thin and full of tiny cars going way too fast. When we weren’t taking a cab and clutching our seat-belts at the crazy driving, we were walking miles and miles to see all the sights. My sister and I were given many an odd look for wearing Van sneakers (still not sure why though), and I remember we almost weren’t let into the Sistine Chapel because I wasn’t covering my shoulders. Thankfully, I had a sweater in my bag and we were able to see the amazing architecture and paintings inside of the church.
I could go on and on about memories from this trip, even though I was at the tender age of 12. Moreover, all of it is thanks to a deal my parents made and a business trip that just happened to fall on Valentine’s Day!