Monday, July 14, 2008

The Gift of a Lifetime: La Dolce Vita

Now, you may hate me for saying this, but I have to just put it out there: I have the best husband in the world. (I know, I know...cue the eye-rolling and barf noises. But hear me out.) After watching me work myself into the ground with classes, teaching undergrads, seeing clients and conducting my own research, he decided it was time for me to take a break. He wanted me to take a real break and not one of those "today-I'll-do-something-nice-for-myself" breaks where I get a pedicure while writing session notes on my laptop. No, no, no. We're talking a REAL break. The kind of break I would never willing agree to because I wouldn't be able to work it into my schedule. The kind of break that would change my life.

It was March, the morning of my birthday, and I woke up alone. I let myself sleep in to 8:30 AM (yes, born to be wild, that's me) and thought for sure that I would be showered with gifts and indulgences from the moment I cracked my lids open. But there I was, lying in my college T-shirt wiggling my toes, alone. Where's my birthday breakfast in bed? Where's my spa gift certificate? Why isn't the phone ringing off the hook? Don't I even get a cupcake? Humph! After hearing me stir around in bed, my husband appeared in the doorway of our bedroom, looking a bit worried.
"What's wrong?" I asked, still a bit groggy.
"Oh, nothing. It's just your birthday gift. I'm afraid you're going to be mad at me."
"What? Why would I be mad at you?"
"I dunno. I just think you will be." His face exposed a mixture of concern and giddiness. "It's kind of a big deal."
"Ugh. What the hell? Did you legally change my name or something? What's going on?"
"Fine. I'll tell you. Uh, I got us tickets to Italy for a month." He said this as quickly as he could while wriggling up his face the way a little kid does when admitting he did something wrong but knowing that his parents won't do anything to him because he's just so darn cute.
"What?!?" I'm sitting up now, eyes and mouth wide open. I am a fright.
"Italy for a month...for you! And me, I guess." He was ducking his head as if bracing himself from a blow.
"A MONTH?!?! I can't do that?!?! Are you nuts?" The rise in blood pressure and heart rate associated with extreme panic kicks in. I'm starting to sweat. My face is hot with redness.
"Well, I can't do anything about it now. It's non-refundable, " he said, shrugging.
"I can't believe this! Jeez! How the hell am I going to do this?"
"I'm sorry." He was laughing at this point.

I lied back and stared at the ceiling. I started my anti-panic mantra I inherited from my eternally optimistic Italian father: Don't worry; it all works out. Don't worry; it all works out. Life is beautiful. Don't worry be happy. La vita e bella. "Okay. Okay. When did you get them for? Maybe I can work something out..."

He said the dates and I quickly flipped through the planner in my head and assessed the damage. "Okay, well, technically, classes will be over by then so no teaching or office hours. I can work on my research when I return, I suppose--to the disappointment of my advisor but I'm getting used to that. But what about my clients? I guess I can also put my clients on hold until then--I'm a student after all. Hmmm. This could actually work." I was processing all of this information out loud and hubby's eyes brightened with each scheduling solution. "Alright, I guess I'll have to make this work, right?"
"It's not like it's a horrible thing to have to work in your schedule. It's freaking Italy!! For a month!!" He's laughing now. The wave of panic I was experiencing began to wash away and a new, stronger wave of emotion swept over me.
"AHHHH! ITALY FOR A MONTH!! WOOHOO!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You're the best!! I can't believe this? How did you swing this?"
"Yeah! It's you can do it, right?"
"I guess I have to!"
"Great. Well, there's another surprise."
"Another surprise?! Holy shit! What else could there be???" I'm rolling around in the while fluffy cloud that is our down comforter, while giggling like a 2 year old.
"Well, now I have to actually buy the tickets," he said, with that wrinkled up look on his face again.
"What? You didn't get the tickets?"
"No, I wanted to make sure that you could do it before I bought the tickets. They're non-refundable, you know."
"Arrgh! Are you kidding me?" Hubby is totally cracking up now. Semi-relieved, I went on, "Well, maybe we should go for two weeks instead. That might be easier. How are we going to afford a month there anyway? Do you know how shitty the Euro is now?"
"No! You said you could do it and I'm going to get them right now. It's all set up. I just have to hit confirm purchase on the website." He started to head for the living room. I leaped up out of the bed and chased him. We're now running to the couch where his laptop is sitting waiting for further instruction. If I were the laptop, I'd would have been petrified at the sight of my hubby and I sprinting towards it looking like rabid beasts. He, of longer limbs, got there first and hit the space bar. It was done. Purchase confirmed.
"How could you just throw away a trip to Italy like that? Are you nuts? And don't worry about the costs, I already have some sweet travel assignments that will cover some of that." he said, a little annoyed now.

Dazed, tired, and a little hungry, I stared at him for a moment. He looked like a deer in headlights. After all, his certifiably insane, workaholic wife was staring at him like a lion casing a cattle farm. Then flatly, I said, "I guess we're going to Italy for a month. Holy shit. Well, that's just great. Let's get breakfast."

And that's how we ended up in Italy for the last month. As you can imagine, fun, adventure, and hijinks ensued--reports of the more memorable moments will soon follow. Ci vediamo pronto!

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