Updated: Jun 17, 2018
I was born in a small apartment in Trastevere, Rome. My dad worked odd jobs for National Geographic and spent too much time in the ancient, rat-infested, sewers of the city. My mom met other ex-pats at yoga classes and took me to the piazzas with their peanut-shell cafes. I spent days with my Italian babysitter Tamara and the kids of my mom's friends, other ex-pat, mixed ethnicity, families. I had a curly blonde afro, watery blue eyes and puffy pink cheeks. Cleo was born before I developed a long term memory. She was a doughy roll of baby chub with a scrunched purple face and round blue eyes a shade darker than mine. She screamed and cried for hours and insisted on being strapped to mom's chest at all times, the long orange scarf of the carrier wrapped around her spherical body. She was the center of my world. Often my mom would be startled by the sound of Cleo's cries and looked up to find me draped on top of her, smothering my baby sister with love.
The years in Rome came and went, never the same. Grandparents would fly in from places I had never been to and there were big holiday parties, pots of Ciopino would simmer under my dad's ladle. Tables were spread with the treats of tradition. I rose on tiny tip-toes to spoon caviar into my mouth, chased off by Nanna's waving finger. The man at the pizzaria tossed me balls of salty-sweet pizza dough, promptly snapped up by the dog, Sadie. Cleo was pushed in a stroller next to me as we both begged Tamara for Gelato in the hot summer. It snowed once.
My parent's business grew and was no longer contained to Rome. We rode the overnight train to Paris and moved into an apartment at the top of a narrow old house. I went to school, dragging Cleo by her chubby hand down the many shaded blocks to the small Montessori school we were enrolled in. French teachers sniffed at us and fed us chocolate and baguettes. But mom was pregnant again and dreamed of being close to her parents and brother. So we boarded the Queen Mary II and moved to Philadelphia. Jade was born in a cramped center-city garden house. I started school again, in English this time, and made friends with the nice American girls in my first-grade class. In the summers we returned to Italy, renting a neat house on a hill in the tiny town of Monte Leone. There were olive trees and blackberry bushes. The friends I remembered from Rome swam with me in the pool and there was no winter.
After five years in Philadelphia the summers in Monte Leone were a faint memory and the nice American girls weren't so nice anymore. My parents, also claustrophobic and frustrated, searched for a boat to buy. Imitating the adventure that had brought them to Italy nearly a decade ago, we flew to the Caribbean and fell in love with a new kind of traveling. Dafne took us through the crowded, beautiful, Caribbean islands and through the Panama Canal. We followed the winds across the Pacific, controlled only by the will of the clear blue sky and endless blue ocean. An Australian family sailed alongside us for months, then a Swedish boat and an American one. The ocean ran out on the rocky coast of Australia and my parents were greeted by the business in crisis. After a failed sale and six more months in Sydney, we sold Dafne and flew back to Philadelphia, heartbroken.
I reluctantly stepped into American middle school, staying on the outskirts of the reigning council of tweens which had been my friends years ago. I left after less than a year and drove off to boarding school, tempted by the promise of a higher education. I wept goodbye to my sisters and parents, the only constants in a life of whirling unpredictability. I'm in highschool now and wondering what comes next, except with perhaps a bit higher stakes than the average conflicted teenager. We'll see I guess.