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A Roman Teenager

Carter's 13th birthday in Rome, Italy

I don’t remember turning 13, although I’m sure it was a big deal to me at the time.  As the youngest of five children, marking my entry into teenage-dom probably was a pretty ho-hum affair.  Having done it four other times, my parents were probably dreading what they knew was coming rather than celebrating this rite of passage.

Teenager.  Conjures up a lot of images, doesn’t it?  I witnessed this transition for Carter as he left childhood behind to enter into adolescence.  This is one of the sweetest kids I’ve ever known and he marked this milestone with grace and honesty.  No bravado or pretension – just pure innocence.  Spending your 13th birthday in Rome ranks pretty high on the cool list so I think it will be one he remembers forever.

The Roman Tour

For his birthday, their first full day in Rome, we toured the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and went on top of the Victor Emmanuel building for a great view of the sprawling city of Rome.  By then they were wiped out through a combination of 90+ degree heat, crowds of tourists, and walking.  A little rest in the AC followed by a rousing game of Uno on the patio of our hotel rounded out the afternoon.  When a very kind gentlemen at our hotel found out it was Carter’s 13th birthday, he arranged for a little refreshment tray to be brought out.  Prosecco for the adults and soft drinks for the kids.  Very thoughtful and special.

Carter and Serafina with the Swiss Guard, Rome ItalyThe next day we toured St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum, including the magnificent Sistine Chapel.  This is a lot of walking and the kids did great, but were completely over it all by the time we got into the Sistine Chapel.  If you’ve ever done this, you know that in order to see the Sistine Chapel you have to go through the massive Vatican Museum.  It’s a wonderful art museum, boasting an impressive collection from all over the world.  Ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, tapestries, architectural treasures, paintings – all owned by the Catholic Church.  I think routing you through the museum is a sort of crowd control so that everyone is not flooding into the Sistine Chapel.

I do wish there was another way to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece, however.  Especially with kids.  They lost interest early on and we made up a game of providing captions for the endless statues.  Like one Greek statue who was pointing his finger down at us was really saying “I’ve told you to stop that – if I have to come down there you’re going to be sorry”.  Then we tried to count how many noses, fingers, arms and other protruding body parts were missing.  The centuries weren’t kind to these bodily nubs and more than a few of them didn’t make it.

Back to the hotel to rest and clean up for dinner.  The clock is ticking louder now.  We were facing the last day.

Biking through Villa Borghese Park, Rome, ItalyThe last day we had planned to go to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and St. Peter in Chains church.  However, Clay got a nasty allergy attack and decided to spend the day resting so that he could face the 10 hour flight the next day.  We took the kids and instead of fighting all the tourists, we decided to spend the day in the Villa Borghese Park just hanging out.  We rented this little four-person bicycle/tram contraption and peddled around the park.  It didn’t have the best turning radius so we got stuck a time or two and had to get out and pull it back onto the path, but overall it was great fun and a good way to cover a lot of ground.  It was work, however.  This thing was not really designed for short legs (and three of the four of us had relatively short legs).  You had to really hunker down to get peddling and I was holding Millie so was limited in how much I could peddle.  Steve ended up taking the brunt of the work load, with our newly minted teenager, Carter, helping out tremendously.  Serafina and I did what we could, but mostly just enjoyed the ride.

It was a great way to spend our last day with the kids.  It reminded me of times we used to go to Piedmont Park with them.  We caught a cab to take us back to the hotel and had the most interesting cab ride.  We hailed this cab and he pulled over with music blaring.  I mean really loud.  He was about 65, I’m guessing, and was bopping along to the music, somewhat oblivious to the fact that he was hired to take us somewhere.  He turned the volume down – slightly – and shuffled through his playlist, which was heavy on 50s and 60s music.  Some American and some Italian.  He sang and snapped his fingers and bopped his head the entire way to the hotel.  The kids and I were in the back seat cracking up.  He was a very happy man who clearly loved music and wanted to share it with the world.  Hands down, the most fun cab ride ever.

The Reluctant Goodbye

I started tearing up that night telling the kids good night.  The end came too soon.  All of our guests left a mark on me, but these kids are part of my soul.  The life they bring to a place is amazing and their presence is rejuvenating.  I had forgotten how much I miss them and how much fun I have when I’m with them.  The void that they will leave will be very difficult to fill.  I will cherish this visit for a long, long time.

Here’s a little song that sums up our visit perfectly.  It’s silly and meaningless and I’ll bet I heard it a thousand times in the ten days they were here.  I wish I was chillin’ with my homies again, chicken wing or not.

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