Sunday, September 28, 2008

Going Places

Anne is her name. Anne Miller, to be exact. She’s a psychic, and I was going to see her and have a reading. So was my friend Robyn, and we left this early to make the drive to Ohio to do so:

I put it on my list of things to do before I turn 30, because I’ve been hearing about Anne Miller for years now, since the first time my friend Poofie had a reading with her, I believe just after our freshman year of college. And since then, Poofie’s gone back. Several times. As has her mom, Jane, who first found Anne (though Jane cannot remember how). Carlie, Poofie’s sister, has gone, too, as has Rick, Poofie’s dad, and GiGi, Poofie’s grandma. From all that I had heard, Anne is accurate. Pretty damn accurate, though you may not realize it at the time, Poofie told me. The first story Poofie told me about Anne when we were 19, I remember sitting out on the back patio at my parent’s house, gabbing away with Poofie like we often did that summer between freshman and sophomore year of college, jacking up our parents’ phone bills. Good times. Anne had told Poofie that there would be a guy, and it had something to do with…spaghetti?

“It’s Giacamo! You’re totally going to marry Giacamo!” I shrieked. Giacamo was going to be a senior at Notre Dame that year, and Poofie knew him from marching band, and had a wildly awesome crush on him. He was a drum major, the son of straight-from-Italy parents, and I do remember him looking quite dapper when doing the high kicks out onto the football field. Poofie just sort of giggled and said, “Oh, I dunnoooooo,” in response.

Poofie got married in 2001, two months after we graduated from college. It was a lovely wedding. Her husband’s name is Shawn. They met through marching band and first hung out over dinner on the way back from the ND/Pitt game. Dinner was at Fazoli’s.

The week before we our Ohio adventure, I called both Jane and Poofie to ask what I should expect out of this Anne Miller.

“What do you call her?” I twittered to Jane. There was a long pause on the other end of the line.

“Anne,” Jane said slowly.

“No, no, no, I mean, what do you call her? Is she called a psychic? A medium? A spiritual guide? What?”

“Oh,” Jane said, understanding. “You know, I’ve never really thought about it.”

“Well you’re no help. How does she get the answers?” I asked.

“I don’t know, and don’t waste your session time asking her,” Jane replied sternly.

“What should I do beforehand?” I asked. “Do I need to prepare anything?”

“Well,” Jane thought a moment. “It’s probably a good idea to think of a few questions beforehand.”


“She’s not going to tell you that,” Jane said. “I might tell you that, but Anne doesn’t hand out bad news.”

After Jane, I called Poofie. “IS WHAT YOUR MOTHER SAYS TRUE?”

“Yes,” Poofie said. “And stop yelling.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just nervous. What if Anne tells me something that I don’t want to hear?”

“Then you tell her to stop and you don’t want to hear about that anymore. She’ll move on,” Poofie explained calmly.

“Well what, you know, happens during the reading? What does she do?” I asked. “How does it all go down?”

“Oh, you know,” Poofie said breezily. “she does some tricks with cards and then you do some shit with rocks.”

“‘Tricks with cards’” I said. “And ‘shit with rocks,’” I paused. “That’s all you have to say.”


“Do you teach your daughter to talk with that mouth?”

“You shut the hell up.”

So they were helpful.


On the ride to Ohio, Robyn and I had debated what Anne Miller looked like.

“Skinny, with long, frizzy hair and a very pointy nose. Glasses, but he hair is always falling in her eyes,” I said. I was picturing a character on an episode of Scooby-Doo, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

“I’m picturing Dumbledore,” Robyn decided. “With long, flowing robes. Except female.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Jane informed us later as we sat on the front porch with her and Rick, eating sandwiches.

“She’s short, very short,” Jane said. “And overweight. Wears glasses. I think today she has a pink shirt on. She’s someone who wouldn’t look out of place at Wal-Mart.”

That was true, I thought to myself as Anne smilingly ushered me into the session room an hour later. I sat down and told her my name and she turned on the recorder to tape our session. As she readied her items, I was completely distracted by the waggles of flab on her underarms, mesmerized as they wobbled to and fro. And then I panicked, convinced that Anne Miller could see into my mind that I was obsessing over her arm waggles and if she was going to use some sort of hoo-doo-voo-doo Jedi mind tricks to stun the thoughts out of me. And then tell me I was going to die a violent death by marshmallows.

Instead, though, she handed me a deck of tarot cards and asked me to shuffle them. And while I shuffled them, I was to think of a question I wanted an answer to, or make a wish, but not to tell her what it is. I shuffled and shuffled in various ways, squeezing my eyes shut and wishing, prolonging the suspense of starting the session. I still wasn’t I wanted to hear what she was going to say.

I had barely handed the cards back to Anne when she looked at me curiously and asked, “Did you recently start dating someone?”

“Um, no,” I said.

“Oh,” Anne nodded. “Okay. Well, there’s a guy standing right next to you, which means he’s coming into the picture very soon.”

“Really?” I asked, looking to my side, as if this guy was tangibly there instead of in my aura. Or destiny. Or future. Or energy. Or whatever you want to call the space right next to me in psychic terms. “What does he look like?” I couldn’t help but ask, thinking to myself, please let him be tall, please let him be tall.

Anne paused, closing her eyes as if to see him better. “Well, he’s handsome, but the first thing you notice about him is how smart he looks,” she replied. “And he’s incredibly smart,” she continued. “He’s tall-“


“-right on the cusp of six feet, a little more or a little less – “

Dear God, please let it be a little more. It’s okay if it’s a little less, but let’s be real. I’m tall. I like tall dudes. At least, taller-than-me dudes. Let’s make that happen. Love, Molly

“ – and he wears glasses sometimes. He’s just incredibly smart. Incredibly smart. Wow. He’s really going places.”

Anne Miller had yet to flip over a tarot card but had already given me some good news. This was totally worth the $55 fee. Violent death by marshmallows was looking less imminent, and I realized how nervous I’d been, my knees twitching and jangling underneath the table, like when I’m on an airplane and let the nerves get to me because I am not the one flying the plane. Anne was flying this plane, and doing a pretty good job so far (because who wants to be dating a dumbass?) which meant I could relax. Kind of. Because how much can you really relax when someone is about to tell you what might possibly happen to you? How much do you really want to know? And how smart is Anne that she’s tape recording this because I am too distracted by my own thoughts to hear what she is saying right now?

The cards flipped over one by one, Anne tapping a finger on some to point out particularly good things to come for me.

“You’re going to get a new job soon,” she said. “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Yes, that makes sense,” she said. “Oh, I’ve been meaning to write a book for years. Have it all planned out, just can’t seem to find the time.”

“Yeah,” I said. This isn’t about you, lady! And can’t your own abilities tell you if that book will ever come to fruition or not? Christ!

“Do you write poetry?” Anne asked, and I started laughing.

“Good God, no,” I told her. “I’m horrible at poetry. Anything I’ve ever tried to write ends up sounding like a lame power ballad.”

“Huh.” Anne thought a minute. “There are beautiful words that will come through you. They aren’t yours, but get a notebook and write them down. They are words from others coming through you, like nothing you would ever write. Not for sale, but just to get them on paper.”

“Oh. Okay.” Because that’s not a little freaky, I thought to myself.

“And in general, when you’re writing,” Anne advised me, “surround yourself with as if with mirrors, so that negative thoughts bounce away from you and don’t taint your writing, and that they bounce back with peace and love.”

And if you don’t think I now have a mental image of myself hunkered down in a mirrored writing teepee with just two eyeholes and a pair of armholes cut out of the front to tap, tap, tap at my laptop, you are so wrong.

“Okay!” I said.

Anne paused again, hovering over the card that just announced I’d get a new job soon. She closed her eyes and tilted her head upward – something she would do regularly throughout the session to concentrate on the thoughts or visions or whatever they were coming to her. “It will be more money, too, this new job, and if you want to take it, take it,” she said finally. Then she looked at me.

“I’m getting pulled toward California. What’s your connection there?” she asked.

I scrunched up my face, thinking. Cousins, friends, but job-wise, “Nothing,” I said.

“Hmm…” Anne said, pausing and closing her eyes. “And now I’m getting pulled toward New York, too. But you’re not living in either place. Maybe you’re working for a company that has offices in both, and you travel to them a lot?”

“Hmm…” was my response.

Now would be a good time to note that in my earlier talkings with Poofie, she had warned me about giving Anne too much information. Poofie has known me a long time, knows that ask me a simple question and I will give you a 500 word answer on occasion. On sometimes. On often. Okay, on most of the time.

“If she asks you where you grew up, don’t go into some long explanation of ‘Well, I lived here, but then we moved, and then I went to school here, and this and that,” Poofie said in a sing-song imitation of me. (Which is totally NOT what I sound like, FYI.)

“Are you telling me to stop talking so much?” I asked, trying to decide if I was insulted that one of my best friends had just called me an inane chatterbox. I was not. Because it’s true.




Anne flipped over more cards, pointing at them here and there. She was seeing comedy writing, maybe about 5 or 10 years down the line.

“I am very funny,” I said seriously.

“Oh, um-hmm,” she said, ignoring my comment, “this card goes back to the guy that’s coming into the picture soon. There is going to be a lot of romance. A LOT of romance.”

“SWEET!” I yelled with a fist pump. Anne startled and I dropped my hands back in my lap and sat back as she turned over another card.

“You’re going to be moving soon,” Anne said.

“Oh,” I replied, not mentioning that thoughts of moving back to Chicago had been fliting in and out of my head recently.

She peered at me. “I keep getting something about Arlington. Very strong, Arlington,” she said, squinting.

“Dear God, I hope not,” I muttered, and put my head in my hands.

“It’s not immediate, your move, but sometime in the near future,” Anne continued. She thought for a moment again. “Yeah, I keep getting Arlington.”

Dear God, Poofie said that Anne isn’t always right on everything. Please let this be one of the things she is wrong on. I do not want to live in Arlington. Heights or Virginia. They are lovely towns, but I have no desire to live in either. Since I’m not military, I’m going to assume she doesn’t mean Cemetery. Love, Molly

Over and over went more cards. I was going to take up a new hobby, she said, and I needed to have more fun in my life. You’re going to be signing a document soon, she told me, but not one I’d need a lawyer to look at. Anne stopped suddenly and said, “I’m hearing loud piano music. Does that mean anything to you?”

“Um, no,” I said, wondering if Anne had suddenly turned bat-shit crazy.

“I’m hearing loud piano music. Really loud. It’s not what you normally listen to, but you like it,” she said. “That doesn’t mean anything to you?”


“Huh. Well, maybe you’re going to a concert or something. Or maybe it has something to do with that guy who’s coming into the picture. I mean it’s really loud, this music.” Anne looked at me expectantly, and all I could do was shrug. It meant nothing to me. Anne shrugged back as if to say, “Well, there you go.”


A couple weeks after my visit with Anne I was up in Baltimore doing some work (re: testing cocktails) with my friend Scalzo and a couple of her coworkers.

“Hey, do you want to come up on Saturday night for Mike’s birthday party?” she asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said noncommittally. “Maybe.”

“Well if you don’t have anything to do, you should come,” she said. “We’re going to Howl at the Moon.”

“Howl at the Moon?” I asked her with wide eyes, having told her my story of Anne’s reading.

“Yeah, Howl at the Moon,” she said, looking at me like a couple marbles had rolled out of my ears.


“Oh shit, I wasn’t even thinking of that!” she yelled back.

“Well I wasn’t going to come up for this, but now I am!” I shouted.

So I did go, and it was a lot of fun, and not something I would normally do, and I even chatted up a young man I met there as well, and texted my friend Robyn about it the next day.

“Was he tall? Did he wear glasses sometimes?” she asked.

“Yes and yes!” I responded.

“Did he look smart?” she questioned.

“Nope,” I said, “but he sure looked pretty.”


“This one,” Anne said, jabbing a finger at a card, “this one is the answer to whatever it was you were thinking or wishing for when you were shuffling the cards.”

I blinked, remembering what that wish was, and panicked a little, my scalp getting a wee crawly.

“And the answer is resoundingly yes,” Anne said. She looked at me intently, and then said, “Yes. People will know your name. You are going places. You have absolutely no idea how successful you are going to be.”

At which point I fell out of my chair.

Anne had no idea what I’d wished for, that I’d asked and wished and prayed that I would be successful in my career, wildly successful, because hey, I may as well shoot for the stars in this wishing game, but she just zeroed in and bulls-eye’d my target. Maybe it was a lucky guess. Maybe she’s just really good at reading people. Maybe my fear of career failure is something other people can smell. Who the hell cares? Do you know how calming and reassuring it is to have an impartial outside third party tell you something supportive and that it’s going to be okay about an issue that’s been gnawing at you for as long as you can remember? Even if it doesn’t come true? Or maybe it will? But who’s to say, because only time will tell? It’s like therapy. Except better. Because at therapy you don’t do shit with rocks.

About those rocks. We’ll get to them in a minute.

“Someone is lying to you,” Anne said, the stack of tarot cards dwindling. She tapped the card in front of her, as I looked at it and at her with alarm. “Someone is only giving you part of the story, so be careful. If someone tells you something that seems too good to be true, really look at where the information is coming from. You know, like if one of your friends says, ‘Hey, let’s go here, because that’s where the movie stars hang out,’ really think about the source.”

“Umm, okay,” I said.

“Oh, and this person is a female,” Anne added, and my head nearly spun off my neck cataloguing my friends and thinking, “Alright, which of you bitches is lying to me? Oh, I’ll find you." I narrowed my eyes and Anne flipped over a few more cards.

“This one shows me that you’ll have a lot of spiritual growth this year,” she said, “and your own psychic abilities and intuition will be more prevalent in the coming year. All in all, you are surrounded by really good spiritual energy and people with really good energy.” I smiled and nodded. I could have told her that.

“Except for that lying one,” Anne said. “You need to cut her out of your life.” My eyes went back to narrowed form.

“Don’t take the job with Disney,” she suddenly said, apropos of nothing.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Did you apply for a job there?” She asked. “You shouldn’t take the job. The pace is too grinding and you won’t like it.”

“No, I didn’t, but okay.”

“Well, isn’t it nice to know that when they offer you the job you can turn them down!” she exclaimed brightly.


The cards were dealt, literally, in front of Anne, her hands empty now. She looked at me expectantly. “Do you have any questions?”

Blank! Blank!

“Umm….not at the moment?” I said. Dammit! I should have listened to Jane! I should have had questions ready! But nooooo…I was too busy waffling back and forth and being dramatic about what do I want to know? What do I want to knoooooow? that I never got around to actually thinking up questions.

“Okay,” Anne said, moving on. She pulled a thick, round wooden disc toward me, and picking it up revealed a ton of rocks and stones. Some were shiny, some were smooth and dull, all different shapes and colors and sizes. Ah, the shit with rocks. The disc had writing all over it, and Anne instructed me to pick up as many rocks as I wanted in two hands, and then drop them on the disc. How they landed was meaningful, as was where they landed.

“Ah,” Anne said, looking over her glasses at the disc. “The rocks landed in almost a perfect circle, which means that you will have more balance in your life soon.”

Dear God, thank you. It’s about damn time. Love, Molly

She pointed to some other stones – one meant I was going to be doing more exercising (true – I’ve been running with Robyn a lot lately as she trains for the Army 10 Miler), and my finances were still going to be stable, but not as much as I wanted them to be (true – they never are) and that I would be feeling better soon, because, as Anne pointed out, I’d been very tired lately (also very, very true at the time). But that would get better, she told me. Apparently the tiredness was coming from internalizing the stress over jobs and such.

Anne put away the shit with rocks and asked me again if I had any questions.

“Well,” I asked tentatively. “Is, um, there anybody, um, you know, here with us right now?”

“Oh yes!” Anne nodded enthusiastically. “There are three, no four, people here with us right now.” Interneters, it was all I could do to not whip my head around and shout, “WHERE?! WHERE?!”

“Oh,” I said, keeping my face calm and blank. “Can you tell me who they are? Maybe describe them to me?”

“Well, there’s a young guy, and two older gentlemen, and an older woman,” Anne said, squinting her eyes shut. I pressed her for more information. “The one older man says…I’m getting he’s a great-grandfather? He says he knows you, but you don’t know him. But he’s very proud of you.”

“Awww, that’s nice!” I said. “What about the others?”

Interneters, I should point out here that I made a deal with one of my grandmothers, Magga – who I think likes to come around and hang out and visit every so often – that if she was there she needed to give me a Really Obvious Sign that she was there. And I should also point out that I was kind of hoping she would show up.

“The other gentleman…it’s like you called him uncle, but he wasn’t really your uncle? Older man,” Anne reported.

“No clue. Who’s the woman?”

“Well, she’s quite modern. She’s wearing slacks,” Anne said. “She’s got dark hair that’s pulled back, and she was an excellent cook,” Anne continued, “but she didn’t like to cook, because she’d rather be out running around and having a good time.”

“Huh,” I sat back in my chair. The good cook part, yes, that was Magga. But according to my Uncle Skip, Magga owned one pantsuit in her entire life. “I have no idea who that is,” I said to Anne.

“It’s like she’s saying to me to tell you, ‘You know who I am,’” Anne replied.

I thought about it, racking my brain of everyone in my life who is passed on. Not all that many, thankfully, but I felt like this person’s – whoever she is – name was on the tip of my tongue. I just…couldn’t…figure it out. “I just don’t know!” I practically wailed.

“Who is the other guy?” I asked. “Is he a relative too?”

“Oh, no, you went to high school with him,” Anne stated.

My ears perked up. “Excuse me?”

“He was a classmate. He was killed in a car accident,” Anne said.

“Oh.” So, yeah, there is a guy I went to high school with who died in a car accident a few years back, after college. It was incredibly tragic (is there any other way for it to be?), not just for the loss of life, but because this guy was one of the nicest people you would ever meet. But I didn’t want to bubble forth with all that information, frankly. I wanted Anne to tell me. “Can you tell me what he looks like?”

“Well, he was always smiling, when he was alive,” she said, closing her eyes and peering to the inside of her mind. “He’s not fat, he’s not skinny, somewhere in between.”

“Okay,” I said, getting anxious. Maybe she’s pulling my leg. This could be any guy.

“And when he stands in the sun, his hair – “

Oh, hell. I was waiting for this one.

“ – is bright red. BRIGHT red. It’s not, really, it’s more like a strawberry blonde, but in the sun, it’s just a fireball.”

Oh my shit.

“Yeah,” I said, kind of freaked out at this point. “That’s Kevin.” Anne had just described Kevin, my classmate who was killed, to a T.

“He’s waving,” Anne told me, “he wanted to stop in and say hello.”

“Oh, hi, Kevin!” I said to the air.

“He likes to go around and check in on you and your classmates, see what everyone is up to. He says he’s fine and he’s having a good time, and he loves that no one can see him,” Anne said, like she was reading me a postcard from a cousin vacationing in Oahu. Anne adjusted her glasses and huffed. “He’s in for a shock, though, one of these days someone IS going to see him,” she half-muttered, for my benefit, or Kevin’s, I’m not sure.

“Ha. Shock of his life,” I said. And then stammered, “Except, he’s, you know, dead.”

“Shock of his afterlife,” Anne said.

Heh. Psychics are funny.

She told me more and more people were coming forward, the door must be open, but I didn’t know most of them, they were relatives long gone, and they just wanted to say hello. Although one woman, in a long dress, did step forward, Anne relayed to me, and said she wanted me to put together my family tree.

“Right now?” I asked, wondering if maybe this would be my new hobby, and wondering how you even start such a thing and dear God, why me?

“No, not right now,” Anne said, “but she wants you to do it eventually.”

I shrugged. “Okay.”

They started to leave then, Anne said, and she relayed that Kevin had turned around to wave goodbye, and the modern woman in slacks was still a bit exasperated that I couldn’t figure out who she was.

“Well I’m sorry!” I wailed again.

Anne straightened her things and asked me again if I had any other questions. I raced through my brain which was foggy with all I’d just been told, eager to ask her something but not knowing what.

“Umm…” I stalled. “What writing project should I be working on?”

Anne peered at the insides of her eyelids for a long moment. “The one you put aside,” she said finally.

I stared at her blankly. “Yeah, that’s all of them. Could you be a little more specific?”

Anne pondered on it for another moment. “The one you don’t want to write.”

“Again, that could be any of them.”

Anne shrugged, her hands up as if to say, “That’s all I got, kid, you’re on your own now.” I sighed.

And then, it was over. The session just sort of ended, and Anne walked me out to where Jane and Robyn were waiting for me. They looked at me expectantly, Jane with cheer, Robyn with panic because it was now her turn. I grinned stupidly back at them, feeling like I was soberly drunk, a bit dazed and blinking in the bright sunlight streaming into the room. That lasted for all of about 1 minute and 30 seconds until Robyn left for her session and Jane said, “So?” and the 45 minutes spent with Anne talking at me fell forth. (Jane has that effect on people, though, Anne or no Anne.)

It was a lot to take in, and close to two months later, I’m still taking it in, and of course, all sorts of questions flood through my mind that I beat myself up for not asking. Bits and pieces of the things she said will come floating back to me at times, and while I have the whole thing on an audio cassette, I haven’t listened to it. I wish I could tell you how I feel about it, a couple months later, but I'm still trying to figure that out for myself, figure out what Anne said was right, what was wrong, and what was wishful thinking. If nothing else, Robyn and I agreed on our drive back to DC, the session with Anne opened our eyes to possibilities we might not have thought of before. Or if we had thought of them before, we hadn’t felt confident enough to put into action. And if nothing else beyond that, at least we could say that meeting Anne gave us new insight to the meaning of tricks with cards and shit with rocks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rome. If You Want To.

This has nothing to do with me turning thirty in six months. Not really, anyway. This is just to say that 10 years ago today I was on a plane headed to Italy where I would spend my sophomore year of college soaking up Italian culture and education and all that came with it. That was the idea, anyway. When I left the following April to go back home, I thought for sure I would be back to Italy soon. Hopefully within five years. Definitely within 10.

Wrong. I haven’t been back since. Physically, anyway. I take a trip there in my head about once a week, though. At least once a week.

I’m not going to spend the next 3,000+ words Romaniscing about my time spent studying abroad. I could, but I won’t. Unless you were there, it would mean little more to you than me telling you a funny story about this one time when we were on a Lecture and Tour excursion and saw historical things and someone made a funny comment, and then later, this girl Liz Marsh fell down the stairs. A lot of what happened in Rome involved seeing historical things, someone making a funny comment, and Liz Marsh falling down the stairs, but I understand that it’s probably not all that interesting to someone who wasn’t there.

But in honor of this 10 year Romaversary, I would like to share a top ten list of things that I learned while studying abroad, ten things that I remember a decade later.

1) Cutting your spaghetti is barbaric. Our program director, our mother hen, if you will, Portia Prebys, informed us of this on our first day at our first meal together, all 60 of us sitting down to eat. Also, you should cut your fruit when you eat it, but you must cut it gently. Hacking away at it is akin to raping your fruit. Apparently, Italy frequently suffers from foodicide? To hear Portia talk, indeed.

2) If you are travelling by train, do not be alarmed if at the last minute you suddenly realize that the train station officials, for no apparent reason, have switched the track from which you are to depart. Just run really fast to that track screaming like an uncouth, American banshee.

3) When you get back from Christmas break and realize that you’ve just blown all your money but yet you have an entire second semester ahead of you and you were really hoping to go to Ireland for Spring Break, call Dad. He will sigh in exasperation at your bad money habits, but he will loan you dough to be paid back when you come back down to earth and start waitressing again the next summer.
a) Addendum to #3: working three jobs the summer prior to studying abroad does not guarantee that you will have enough money to get you through the year if you don’t know how to budget.
b) Addendum to #3a: Europe is expensive.

4) People, like your program director, tend to remember last names like Strzelecki. And then immediately dislike you, even though you have only been in the country six hours. But someone (oh, I don’t know, your eldest sister, maybe) pissed her off 10 years prior and Prebys never forgot it and that means wonderful things are simply bound to happen for the next year of your life.

5) Hand-washing clothes in your tub or bidet on a regular basis may be eco-friendly, but it is definitely not fun.

6) The Amalfi Coast may be one of the most beautiful places on earth. And when in doubt in Bologna, just order the tortellini soup.

7) You may think you are drunk on the power of freedom, being without parents in Europe at the age of 19, but really you’re most likely just drunk.

8) If you meet people who don’t like Americans, tell them you’re Canadian.

9) You don’t need to speak Italian to live there. It would be nice, sure, but more often than not they’ll speak to you in English before you can even say, “Ciao.” And if you’re my friend Deb, you can spend the entire year using barely any words at all and simply gesticulating with your hands and throwing knowing gazes to and fro and have entire conversations with someone else even though neither of you speaks the other’s language.

10) If you want to smoke a cigarette on an Alitalia flight, you have to be sitting on one of three specific rows at the back of the plane. Otherwise, the flight attendant will come hustling down the aisle waving her hand frantically at you and throwing around Italian words. If this happens, just blame the guy sitting next to you who gave you the cigarette in the first place, because he should get used to being blamed by women for something. After all, he is about to spend the next educational year as one of 15 guys surrounded by 55 girls.

There is more, so much more than that. I did learn a few things, classroom-wise that year, but now I can't remember what those things were, but I'm most positive that they had to do with mythology and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. (Though not together.) There are three journals and two scrapbooks worth of memories that I can pull out whenever I want to remind me of my year in Italy. It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done, keeping that daily journal while in Europe, though last week when I was reading through some entries, I cringed out of embarrassment for my 19-year-old self who wrote with confidence and a cooler-than-thou worldly knowledge, but did so only after a few days of whining to her notebook about how she missed home. This girl scribbled away trying to take it all in, the people, the places, commenting that she thought Corey Clay was soooooo cute and she was very glad he was on her Rome program this year, commenting look how well she could already get around Rome and look how awesome everything was and how awesome she was, even when she was being thinky and philosophical and maybe a little maudlin as you might be when you are 19 and awesome, and writing as if She Knew Everything.

My cringing knows no bounds when I read these journals. But then again, neither does the smiling and cackling and pride and happiness, because underneath it all there are stories and smells and flashes of sights that helped shape me and that I will always carry with me. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world. That year was amazing, dammit. All the blogs posts I could write could never fully do my thoughts and feelings justice on the subject. So just trust me on this one.

Happy 10 years, SMC Romers. Don’t forget to look left.