Picking up where we left off...
The door opened and the little, blond-haired boy stood in the hall with his mother, Kate. His name was Branden (again, I've changed this for privacy reasons). His wide, blue eyes framed by dark lashes regarded me, sizing me up, most likely comparing me to his previous Au-pairs. I leaned down on one knee. "Ciao," I greeted him. We shook hands and exchanged shy smiles. He leaned against his mother and I was instantly at a loss in the face of this angelic child. Thankfully, I remembered my gift for him. After I presented the baseball glove and ball with a flourish, letting him know it was a gift from my American family to him, he held it limply, unimpressed with the gift from strangers. I smiled weakly at his mother who told him to thank me. He just chewed on a finger and stared at me, clearly in control of the situation. He was cute, but I knew I had my work cut out for me in the form of a little imp. All in all, it was an uncomplicated introduction to my new life.
Before I left for Italy, my sister's boyfriend had given me the phone number of a family they were connected to through their church. I figured it couldn't hurt to have a contact in Italy as I had no way of knowing if things would work out with my host family. I called the number and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the family lived just five minutes from my new neighborhood. They invited me to visit and that is how, three or four days after I arrived in Italy, I met the Italian/American family who was to change the course of my life forever.
We met for dinner and for me it was like being back with my own family again, except in a deeper, newer way. We fell in like old friends instantly and my heart was buoyed after a strange weekend getting acclimated to my role as an employee of an incredibly wealthy family. The precious missionary family encouraged me, welcomed me, and cried with me when I was overcome with emotion during a time of singing. I will never forget that experience. They must have felt sorry for me not having a single friend in the area, which is, perhaps, why they invited me to join them at a church conference in Rimini that would take place a few weeks later. Naturally, I said yes, but I was astounded at their generosity of spirit towards a complete stranger. Over the next couple of weeks, I spent all of my free time with them. We quickly became the closest of friends—children and parents alike. They were my support during the hard times with my work family.
My time with Branden was interesting. At five and a half years old, he was about to enter first grade at his private American school. I believe his parents viewed me as the only hope of preparing him for this pivotal point in his life. I never learned exactly how many Au-pairs he had had prior to me, but it was probably close to five. Five different faces and styles of teaching and personalities for a little boy to filter through in such a short time. I remember pitying him even during his tantrums. There was not much discipline or structure between the parents, Chris and Kate, and their only child. They took over his care around dinnertime after I had done homework and bath time with their son. We ate together and afterward I was free to retire to my room. I was always shocked at the hands-off parenting that I witnessed in that house.
My duties included: to sometimes wake him for school, eat breakfast with him and his mother, sometimes dress him and prepare him to leave, drive him to school and see him to his class, then return to pick him up in the afternoon around three. He had swimming lessons and tennis lessons on different days after school and would occasionally have a birthday party to attend. Those occasions brought me into the other houses in the neighborhood, the houses behind the tall, vine-covered walls. During all of these moments with Branden, with his parents, and even with the housekeeper and her son, I never felt myself. I never came out of my shell to take those relationships to a deeper level. I couldn't, simply because they never needed or wanted me to. Thankfully, I had my new heart family, and their kindness was more than enough to counter any negativity I experienced during my working hours.
The weekend of the conference arrived quickly. I remember the excitement I felt at leaving my work family's house for the first time. And to go on a road trip across Italy with my amazing new friends. There were three children in the family: two girls and the youngest was a boy. The girls kept teasing me about a guy who lived up north and played the drums and had curly hair. As I mentioned previously, I had just come out of a relationship the year before and was not looking for a new one. Still, curly hair. I'd always had a weakness for guys with curly hair. And a drummer? Intriguing. I let the thought slip from my mind but when we arrived, the curly-haired guy was one of the first faces I saw.
I've been told my posts are too long, so I will end there and hopefully post the next much more quickly than I did this one. I hope you enjoyed the next segment in the saga of my life. : ) If so, please like and/or comment on my post and share it with anyone else who you think might enjoy.