In this snapshot, you are showing off the new bike that a man probably named Giuseppe made you. You proudly waddle it down the cobbled, crowded streets of Orvieto where tourists and townspeople, alike, have gathered in the crisp fall air. You do not pedal but instead push off with great force using the grip of the canvas-bottomed shoes that look nothing like those we get back at home. You are with your mother and she did not seem bothered that I wanted to catch you in this moment.
Your appearance was both priceless and perfect. You were a gift from above; thoughts of you never escaping my lips, yet you appear as if from the al-frescoed angels on every church front or an offering from any one of the innumerable hidden relics of worship built into the stucco walls of residences. You were my trinket of remembrance, that thing they tell you to always buy when you visit a place.
You, I do not know, and yet I shall call you Lucca—the Italian boy, the son of Mediterranean birth who holds my heart and brought me alive. You, the embodiment of my imagination and concern whether the familial circle of life was capable in these magical, walled streets. You are a truth and a spark in this trip of culinary wonder—an added benefit, unexpected and just right. You appear just outside the doors of a toy shop where they would probably still spell “shop” with two “p’s” and an “e” at the finish. A place where children’s things are not mass-marketed or factory-produced, but carved with love and steady hand, painted with patience and truth. You cross my path from a world I doubted to exist, where children knew how to play in the sun and look at their world with eyes open and curious.
You are not mine and yet I long to embrace your tiny body. I wonder if your skin and hair smell like the olive oil that has perfumed our studies so far. Is there fennel and rosemary woven into your cap? Do you have olives and some pecorino cheese, or biscotti and figs hidden in your deep pockets for a nibble? Will you have a lunch of risotto or some sort of pasta this afternoon? Do you know yet, in your studies, the place from which I come?
You have appeared to me in my search for just the right memory holder. You are more prized than the truffle, more delicate than the finest prosciutto or hand-woven linens, more poignant than the lingering finish of peppery oil on the tongue.