Quick, pop quiz! OTHER than New York City, what was my favorite place I’ve ever visited?
NO, not Poughkeepsie, although some of my favorite people live there. NO, not Albuquerque, although that’s a good guess because you know I love places with “q”s in the name. I think I might have driven through there once, and it was pretty, but too sandy for me. I like green. And trees. Cactuses and pebbles have their place, but give me trees and lawns any day.
THE ANSWER IS ROME!
When I was twenty, I went to Rome on spring break, the semester I was studying abroad. We spent three or four days there and I fell in LOVE. The people were warm and friendly (and everyone was so beautiful, my goodness); the food was AMAZING (I still think about the gelato and drool a little, discreetly, into my sleeve, of course, like a LADY); the landscape and views and general atmosphere were so welcoming and so beautiful and so…I don’t know. Homey? I felt at home there. We went to a lot of places on that trip, but there was no place that felt as comfortable as Rome. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay and soak it in for a while longer. Or maybe forever. If I were given unlimited money, I would first buy a home here (because this is home base) and of course a home in New York City (because, well, New York City) and then a home in Rome. Then I’d be done. And I would just cruise between the three places. And fly my friends in for long periods of time. Like a rich person does, you see.
ANYWAY, a couple of days ago, I was on the phone with Dad, and Mom was all “give me the phone I HAVE NEWS!” Well! I like news! Who doesn’t like news, you know?
So! Guess where Mom’s going in October?
Mom’s been to England and Scotland, but never Rome. And Mom’s Catholic. No, please, let me amend. SUPER-CATHOLIC. Like, she should get a cape and probably a belt with a big belt-buckle or something with SC on it. She is JUST THAT CATHOLIC. So where would super-Catholic people like to go? What is their (sorry for the analogy, but it’s apt) Mecca? Rome, of course.
Mom has been envious for YEARS that I got to go to St. Peter’s and the Sistine Chapel and she’s never been. She might think this borders on sacrilege, honestly. I’m not 100% sure what she thinks 20-year-old me was DOING at St. Peter’s. Being inappropriate? Laughing at the statues? Screaming “WHERE THE POPE BE AT, YO?” I can tell you I was very quiet and calm and reverent. That place was awe-inspiring, even though I am very much a lapsed Catholic. (I would imagine I would have the same type of reverence in an impressive mosque or temple, too, though. My ability to be impressed by beauty knows no religious boundaries. Should it? I don’t think it should.)
Anyway, one of Mom’s coworkers heard about a tour to Rome from someone, and got a flyer, and found out if you go alone, you get roomed with a stranger, but if two of you go, you can room together. So she asked Mom, somewhat hypothetically, “You wouldn’t want to go to Rome, would you?”
Mom would. Mom SO would.
But Mom had a question for me first.
“Amy, it’s on your birthday. I told M. I had to ask if that would be ok with you first. I’ve NEVER missed your birthday.”
I gave that a very dramatic pause, then I said, “Nope. That’s unacceptable. I won’t allow you to be out of the country on my one special day of the year. Sorry. You’ll have to tell M. no.”
Mom was very quiet.
“YOU ARE A FOOL, WOMAN. Of COURSE you go to Rome! It’s ROME! You get an opportunity to go to Rome, YOU GO TO ROME! Guess what? I’ll have other birthdays. I plan on having a lot more of them. I’m not even middle-aged yet. Also, you’ll have email, and phones. It’s 2013. You could totally contact me on my birthday. You call M. RIGHT NOW and tell her YES YES YES,” said her evilly mean daughter that is ME.
Mom laughed. “Whew, you were being TRICKY.”
I think it’s funny that Mom was going to jettison a chance of a lifetime for my birthday. It’s not even a MILESTONE birthday, sheesh. And all we do is go to lunch and go shopping. We can do that anytime.
Then she told me what the trip WAS. I was expecting one of those old-people guided tours where they show you some things and keep you safe from gypsies. (When I went to Rome, everyone was all “LOOK OUT FOR GYPSIES.” I never even saw a SINGLE gypsy. I was kind of disappointed by this. I wanted to at least SEE a gypsy, after all this talk of gypsies.)
It is a RELIGIOUS PILGRIMAGE. Where all you see is RELIGIOUS THINGS. The WHOLE TIME.
Mom’s super-jazzed about this so I can’t even pick on her. I mean, seriously, she’s all religious. And she’s always wanted to go to Rome. But then I did a search and saw the itinerary and…can I pick on her a little bit? Just a LITTLE. With LOVE.
(Also, when I told Mom I had written this, she was all, “You send me that link! I want to read that post! I want to know where I’m going! And M. will want to read it, too!” so now I am going through and cleaning this up for Mom-consumption. Dear Mom and M., please do not be offended by the content of the blog herein; I am VERY EXCITED about your trip and can’t wait to hear all about it. Also, hi! How nice that you’re reading! And also a little scary! I hope you don’t hate me!)
First, the name of the company doing this tour is Tekton Ministries. I think this sounds like the name of a Transformer. I think any tour would be better with the addition of a robot boombox, right?
I found a sample itinerary on their website, which is super-outdated (it says you’d visit Pope John Paul II, and he was two popes ago) but it’s for the most part the same except she isn’t going to the places at the end of the tour.
Some of the things Mom will be seeing:
- The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. Fine. I’m down with this. “Mom, wait til you see all the rich stuff in there,” I said. “It makes you sad and think, ‘maybe if they sold some of this stuff, poor people could have dinner.'” “That is NOT what you are supposed to think at the VATICAN,” Mom said. “Those are PRICELESS RELICS.” “They’re not fingerbones of saints, Mom, they’re like gold cups, and there are a kajillion of them, no one would miss like four, and I’m thinking four would feed a minor country, seriously. They are all jewel-encrusted, it’s insane.” “You might have been concentrating on the wrong things while you were there, Amy,” Mom disapproved.
- Then Mom gets to have Mass with the Pope. She is SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS. This is the equivalent of me getting to see Stephen King, is my thought. She realizes there will be a billion other people in the square and everyone’s getting Mass at the same time, but this doesn’t faze her. No no not even a little. THE POPE!!! I’m not going to make fun of this. This is her most exciting thing. My thoughts about such a thing and the man’s beliefs on social issues don’t play in here. Let her have her happy thing.
- A church called “St. Peter in Chains.” This is a thing? Apparently so.
- “…the Basilica of San Andrea del Fratte, where Alphonse Ratisbonne was instantly converted when Our Lady appeared to him.” INSTANTLY CONVERTED! Well, that’s magically quick. Also, hee, “Ratisbonne.”
- The Trevi Fountain! I don’t know what this has to do with religion but I’m pleased she gets to see a touristy thing. “I threw a coin in there once!” I told her. “It’s probably not there anymore, Amy,” she said. “I was just TELLING you, I didn’t mean go LOOK for it, woman,” I replied.
- “…Pompeii, where you will visit the famous ruins of a once flourishing and prosperous town. It was taken by surprise in 79 A.D. and buried by the ashes of the Vesuvius Volcano.” I like that Pompeii was taken by surprise. SURPRISE! YOU ARE ALL DEAD NOW! WORST SURPRISE EVER! Also, I’m a little envious she gets to see Pompeii. I’d like to see Pompeii. I find things like that fascinating.
- The Shrine for Mitigating Suffering! Man, there are some NAMES over there, right? Mitigating Suffering! “Mom, say a prayer for me over there, I totally have some suffering,” I said. “Amy, I say prayers for you EVERYWHERE. I’m optimistic that someday one of them might work,” she replied sternly. (I totally tried to find a photo of this shrine to show you but there weren’t any. I have therefore decided it’s just a statue of Mary in a bathtub in some Roman woman’s backyard.)
- “…the home of Saint Rita, ‘the saint of the impossible.’ We’ll visit her Basilica and view her incorrupt body.” OK, first, my beloved and dearly-missed grandmother was named Rita, and I do so enjoy that she was named after the saint of the impossible. That works on a lot of levels, because a., she made the impossible possible daily because she totally believed in magic, right up until the day she died, and b., she was stubborn as anyone I’ve ever known, so therefore, IMPOSSIBLE. (I think you can see why I loved her so much. We might have related a little bit, right?) What is this “incorrupt body” business? Like, it wasn’t involved in money laundering, or after all these years, it’s not rotted? I’m kind of intrigued but also somewhat disgusted by this. Also at the same place, “we’ll tour Saint Rita’s convent where she received the thorn from Christ’s crown.” WHAT? When were they just handing out such things? That seems hard to prove. How can they prove that’s where that thorn came from and not just from some thornbush? Yes, yes. I understand this is why I’m not the religious type. More the doubting Thomas type, me.
- “We’ll visit the Basilica of St. Clare and view her incorrupt body.” MORE INCORRUPT BODIES! Listen, this is the land of the mob and the Godfather, there’s a lot more corruption there than this itinerary is making out, is my thought. Also, as we learned just the other day, St. Clare was the aunt of St. Amata, also known as St. Aimee of Assisi. St. Aimee! ME ME ME!!!
I told Mom she should go visit La Bocca della Verità, and she said “what is that, I don’t know about this” suspiciously because Mom thinks everything I’m about to tell her is about sex. Never mind that I very seldom if EVER discuss sex with her because it’s awkward and ew ew ew that is my MOTHER, but apparently she thinks EVERYTHING we talk about is sex-related. “It’s this stone face with the mouth open, and rumor has it, if you put your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, it will BITE YOUR HAND RIGHT OFF! I loved it so much!” “Hmm,” Mom said. “I don’t think we will see that. It doesn’t sound very religious at all.”
Well, I looked it up, and it’s AT A CHURCH, Mom. It’s at a church with the RELICS OF ST. VALENTINE IN IT. So that is VERY religious. Maybe you’re just a liar and you’re scared you’ll come back all one-handed, did you ever think of THAT, Mom? Hmm?
So this sounds very much like a trip that Mom and friend M. will enjoy, because, well, all the religious things and incorrupt bodies (which I looked up and it means they kind of self-mummify rather than rot away to bones, and the photos are…well, kind of horrifying, to be honest) and Jesus-thorns and churches and Popes and such.
If *I* went on a trip to Rome, however, my trip would a lot less religious and a lot more…pasta, bread, and gelato-filled. Museums. A trip up to Venice, which I didn’t get to see. A trip to Florence, which I missed out on. And then more carbs. MORE DELICIOUS CARBS. Until I pretty much died from carbs. And was buried in Rome. Or perhaps became incorruptable, who even knows what might happen, that seems to be a thing there.
Happy trip to Rome, Mom. You deserve the best time. If that’s all saint-mummies and religious relics, go, you. I hope you have the best time.
You’d better bring be back some kickass souvenirs, though. You are MISSING my BIRTHDAY. Can you even IMAGINE such a thing? Sheesh.