Not long after dawn, under circling pigeons, we get on a train to the Rome airport. I’m nearly certain our tickets aren’t valid. My phone’s app shows me a mixed message of a cheery You’re all set! and a stern Seats reservations required! I can’t figure out where the tacky-tacky box to check to shell out for reservations might hide. The train car is nearly empty. My daughter and I sprawl out with our suitcases and backpacks. In a luminous honeyed light, the train winds out of Rome. We pass immense apartment buildings with balconies crammed with tables and chairs, hanging plants, yesterday’s laundry.

A conductor walks by, returns and holds out his hand. He speaks to me in Italian. I answer in the one language I command and point to the cheery sentence on my phone. The train picks up speed.

“Remember,” he tells me and disappears into the next car.

Remembering has always been my strength and my weakness.

As a girl, my family used to take the train from New Hampshire to Boston for the day, excursions crammed with cobblestone streets, swans, pastries, history, the ocean’s salty breeze. On this Italian train, my daughter, 17-on-the-cusp-of-18, presses her suntanned face to the window. Crimson poppies bloom along the tracks. Before we left on this trip, a friend told me the adage about pedestrians in Rome — the quick and the dead. Quick we are this morning, on this train with our baggage of wrinkled clothes, a few gifts, those library books I finished reading. A man stands on a sidewalk, smoking a cigarette, studying the train as we sway along.

The next morning, not smoking a cigarette, I stand beside an apple tree in my yard, studying a woodchuck who’s set up housekeeping in a den, the creature returning my gaze, eyes glossy, inscrutable.

4 thoughts on “Remember.

  1. Glad you made it home safely! When I read you were stranded due to the airline strikers, I must admit I was tempted to write: Well, at least you are both strong swimmers!
    Lovely reflections and remembrances 🌟

  2. I’ve been to Rome a few times and the driving is not the best. It’s funny in Sweden where I am from, people drive very safely, safer than in the US, but Rome and Athens are the exact opposite. Stay safe and have a great trip.

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