My Italian had vastly improved, and during lunch service at the restaurant by the pool, I was better at understanding what the guests ordered when the waiters called out the orders to us. The tagliarini with lemon cream sauce was the pasta of the day again and Alessandro let me prepare most of the orders. I remembered how my husband, Craig, liked dinner served on a warmed plate so it wouldn’t cool off quickly and I dipped each serving plate into the hot water in the pasta cooker (like a deep fryer, only filled with circulating hot water) and then dried it with a hand towel before I transferred the pasta and sauce from the pan to the plate. When lunch service ended, I helped straighten up the left over ingredients and covered containers of parsley, chopped tomatoes, lemon zest and minced garlic with clear plastic wrap so they could be returned to the main kitchen. Then I followed Alessandro to the elevator to say good-bye to Chef and change for the bus ride home.
The weather was beautiful outside when I emerged from the hotel restaurant in the afternoon. I decided to take the ferry back to Positano instead.
When I disembarked at the long public pier, I removed my sandals and walked along the beach letting the gentle waves wash over my feet. I was looking forward to spending my next day off reading a good book in one of those chaise lounge chairs shaded by big, colorful umbrellas that you can rent by the day.
As I walked through the sand, I found myself again thinking about my life. What is my passion? What brings me the greatest sense of satisfaction? What makes my heart sing? I didn’t have any qualms about starting a new venture at this stage of my life (you’re only as old as you feel, right?) I think the most important aspect of my summer experience was the fact that I had been able to decisively choose for myself what I wanted to explore. I enjoyed cooking,, but I decided that I didn’t want to own a restaurant. I wanted to cook at a more leisurely pace over good conversation with family and friends and a glass of wine in one hand. I suddenly realized that my husband and children were my greatest joys. I had traveled half way around the world to search for something meaningful in my life only to discover that I had it all along. The ringing of my cell phone interrupted my thoughts.
“Hello,” said Craig. “Happy 38th wedding anniversary! I love you, honey. How are things going?”
“Buon anniversario,” I replied in Italian. “I’m coming home!”
The next morning I dragged my suitcase up the hill to catch the bus to begin the complicated route to Rome, which would require two bus rides, two train rides and a taxi before I reached the airport for my departure flight.
As I sat on the covered stone bench waiting for the first bus to take me from Positano to Sorrento, an old man walked up the road with a heavy plastic shopping bag in his hand. When he reached me, I said,
“Buon Giorno. Che bella.” (Good Morning. The weather is beautiful).
“Buon Giorno,” he replied with a big grin. Then he reached a weathered hand into his sack and pulled out one of those huge yellow Amalfi Coast lemons and handed it to me.
“Grazie,” I nodded with a smile. I scratched the skin of the lemon with my fingernail and inhaled the strong, citrus scent. The sky was streaked with pink and blue like a washed-out beach towel and the sun was just beginning to peak around the mountains to the east. As I watched the old man walk down the hill toward the center of town, I mused It’s going to be another beautiful day in Positano.