Rome ruled the world for about 1,000 years and its influences and innovations are still felt today. Everyone associates Rome, Italy with being the center of this empire, and a visit there provides a glimpse into the magnificence and grandeur of this culture that spanned the centuries. What most people don’t know about, however, is the influence that another Rome has had on the world. Rome, Georgia.
When I married Steve almost 30 years ago, I knew I would be marrying into his boisterous Italian family. What I didn’t know was that I would also be marrying into a larger family of childhood friends who were as big an influence on him as his family. The more I found out about these Romans from Georgia, the more intrigued I became. I’ve met a few people in my life who have friends from their childhood that they still keep in touch with, but this group shares a bond that surpasses my comprehension. Rome was Mayberry, where kids played without adult supervision, walked to school, and got into as much trouble as they thought they could get away with. In the warm summer evenings, a chorus of parents calling out names could be heard echoing through neighborhoods. A 1950s dinner bell. Many southern towns were like this, but something magical happened with these kids – they are all just as close now as they were then.
I’ve witnessed many gatherings of this group where they may not have seen each other for months, maybe even years, and the dynamic is like no time has passed. The relationships are easy, comfortable, giving ones. I wonder if they know how lucky they are?
Romans in Tuscany
Four Georgian Romans arrived in the Italian Rome and conquered their jet lag to see a few sights. Two couples, Ann and Jim and Cynthia and Mike, stayed in Rome a couple of days and then made a perilous train trip to Tuscany to stay with us for a few days. Train travel in Italy is a wonderful thing, when it works correctly. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, like the train being late, the train catching on fire (true story), or not being able to get the blasted train door open when it’s your stop. Like many things in Italy (toilets come to mind), no two are alike. On some trains the doors open automatically at each station. On others you have to push a button, pull a lever, or do the hokey-pokey to get the door to open. Guess which kind of train the Romans were on?
They called us from a place we’d never heard of and said they missed their stop. They couldn’t get the door to open and stood watching in disbelief as the platform they were supposed to be standing on passed by. At the next stop, they pushed and pulled everything they could find and the door slid open allowing them to escape. But what to do now? This is where technology comes in very handy. We were able to talk to them about options while searching for the best train solution on the world wide web.
They arrived, a few hours later than expected, a little more travel weary than expected, but intact. I watched again with some amazement as this group settled into the comfortable cadence that defines a deep friendship. Lots of “Do you remember” and “Whatever happened to” sentences. Lots of laughter and smiles. Of the six of us, four were in the same class. Cynthia and I are the newcomers, although Cynthia is a long time Roman. I’m the outlier, but over the years I’ve heard the stories and visited enough that I can almost imagine Mrs. Jones Jones (Miss Jones married Mr. Jones) and her English class. I can picture the girl whose name comes up in almost every story (her name will remain a mystery but her initials were S.H.). I close my eyes and see happy teenagers exploring life together and learning about love, heartache, and responsibility. And I open them and see accomplished people who have all lived meaningful lives and made the transformation from child to adult in the best way possible – with grace and always with a giving and open heart. These Romans are fine people.
With a little discussion and a lot of wine, we outlined a plan for the next week or so that would give them a taste of our lives here and some explorations beyond the boundaries of our little village. Our plans would take us to Venice and Florence, with some stops in between. To accommodate this group, we rented a nine passenger van because our little Peugeot hatchback was just not big enough. That had me a little nervous because of the notoriously small roads in Italy, but our chauffeur, Steve, was confident he could do the job.
We were all set for our Roman invasion of Italy. But was Italy ready for us? Stay tuned to find out.