Venice was its magical self last week – foggy lagoon with palazzos and cathedrals rising from the mist to create a beautiful, if somewhat creepy, vista of Renaissance barons and gondoliers plying commerce among the canals and alleys of the Queen of the Adriatic.
I was there to meet up with The Girls of Wake Forest’s class of 1978. We went to revisit some of the magical moments of our semester abroad in Casa Artom on the Grand Canal.
It was only the first stop on an adventure that included planes and trains to the mosaic rich Ravenna, Medici influenced Florence, and walled city of Lucca – each a reminder of the rise and fall of empires, the impact of political and religious trickery, and the resilience of great art to inspire beyond the reach of time.
While the art of Italy fed my soul – and the pasta did a number on my waist - it was the time with The Girls that was most valuable.
Of course, we’re not actually Girls any more in the true sense of the word. Not sure it’s possible to be Girls when you’ve hit your 60s. But these women will always be The Girls in my mind’s eye.
It’s a fun trick the mind can play – holding the visual memory of our younger selves so that 23-year olds peer at me from the faces of my long-time college friends. I can still see the young women excitedly preparing for first dates with fraternity boys, hair being straightened or curled depending on preference.
That same phenomenon happens with childhood friends from Mansfield, Ohio – within minutes of meeting up, the children of my youth peer at me from eyes that have lived decades beyond the expiration of childhood.
The Girls have all been married, raised children, and experienced moments of great joy and profound sadness. All of that is reflected in the corners of our eyes, the curve of our smile lines, and in the “11s” of our foreheads.
That last is a new thing for me – I had never realized what a problem 11s could be on one’s forehead. Those are the two parallel lines that appear when one frowns deeply. They were quite the topic of conversation over my week in Italy – how to moisturize, hydrate, or tape them away so that they disappeared from view.
I guess I’ve never really noticed the 11s, the creases, or wrinkles on the lovely faces of The Girls. They remain 23 for me within the magic of my mind’s memory. Always young, always eager for a new adventure – and that is the power of staying connected to dear – and old – friends.