Recognizing that last year was not everyone’s favorite, the Chicago Tribune asked readers to submit stories for the paper to publish as a collection of short pieces defending poor 2016. Sharon Silverman submitted a shortened version of an essay she’d written for one of the memoir-writing classes I lead here in Chicago, and of course the Tribune was delighted to use it. You can link here to read Sharon’s short piece in the Tribune, but here, just for you Safe & Sound blog readers, is the original longer version that inspired Sharon’s submission.
It Doesn’t Get Better Than This
by Sharon Silverman
This summer I traveled with my grandson, Max, to Italy. It was one of the happiest times in my life! Just the two of us — together for sixteen days.
With only one carry-on bag and a backpack each we flew non-stop to Rome. Traveling light is my mantra, and Max succeeded by squishing his clothes into plastic zipper bags including his stuffed animal, Shleppy. Even a thirteen year old needs to have his favorite cuddly pet along for a journey.
There’s nothing like sharing the splendor of Rome with your grandson.
With his encouragement, I make it up the 551 steps of St Peter’s Dome. “Come on, Grandma. You can make it.” My wobbly knee, recently renovated through months of physical therapy, does not disappoint! Looking down into the basilica is an astonishing sight: tiny tourists moving through glistening marble structures and statues. Without Max’s prodding, I wouldn’t have done this.
In the Jewish Ghetto, we walk through history where 2000 Jews once lived. On October 13, 1943 they were forced into trucks transporting them to Auschwitz. We read their names and birthdates listed on golden plaques in front of the homes where they once lived. One marker identifies a three year old boy. We continue walking sadly, holding each other tight as we imagine the horror of that day.
Our travels continue to Naples. Exiting the train we try to find the hotel. It’s hot and steamy. The streets of Naples are dirty and smelly. We’re tired, hot, and hungry. We walk around for some time. Thank goodness we travel light.
At last we find it! Exhausted and relieved we collapse in our room to rest. In the next days, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and the Amalfi Coast make up for the squalor of Naples.
Our last week is an organized trip with grandparents and their grandchildren ages 11-15. We meet the group in Verona, and one night we are treated to the opera La Traviata in the large outdoor arena. I saw Aida here 51 years ago. Now I’m back with Max! Sharing this moment with him now makes me feel so joyful.
As Violetta takes the entire third act to die, Max comments, “This is so cheesy. Die already!” I chuckle with delight.
In Venice we stroll through the winding streets, ride in a gondola, and even make our own masks in a special mask making workshop. Max is happy making new friends with the children in the group, and I’m content leaving the daily planning to the trip organizers.
One of the grandparents is traveling with her grandson for the entire summer — 40 days — and Italy is only one stop. When Max hears this he says, “No offense, Grandma, but I wouldn’t want to be with you for 40 days.” We laugh, and I agree.
The last night, lying next to each other in our respective beds, Max says, “You are the best grandma. Thank you so much! I love you!”
It doesn’t get better than this!