Let’s take a trip down memory lane to Easter Eve, 2005. In these days, an American cell phone was as good as a brick in Europe.
It’s late at night and I’m about to to board a train from Torino to Roma. I am so proud of myself for being early. I’m usually rushing at the last minute everywhere I go. I walk up and down the platform trying to find the number of my car. I don’t see it, so I ask the attendant.
“Il treno è già partito!” He shakes his head. My train has already left. How can that be? Now that I think of it I had looked at so many departure options before choosing one…I must have confused the times.
I stand there numb and motionless, the impending disaster flashing through my mind. I am not willing to accept that fate, yet this is the last train going to Rome tonight. A morning train won’t get me there in time. Besides, they’re probably already booked. Tomorrow is Easter and everyone and their mother wants to be at the Vatican. I have other reasons for being there.
There has to be a way! I am not ready to give up. What am I going to tell my mother?
I look at the attendant with my big brown doe eyes, as my ballet teacher used to call them. I am speechless. I don’t have the words in Italian. All I can manage is a big, round tear that escapes down my cheek. I try to hold back the waterfall.
My mom and my aunt are going to kill me if I lose their babies! How will I ever find my brother and cousin? I have absolutely no way to contact them. They’re just going to be lost in Rome!
“Non piangere! Don’t cry!” He seems genuinely concerned.
“Mio fratello..mia cugina…domani mattina…Roma…aeroporto…” I leave out the verbs that I didn’t know, but he still listens. He understands.
He motions for me to get on the train. I try to protest, but he insists. Where am I going to sit? I know for a fact that this train is sold out. Now I remember. I had wanted to take this train, but it was full. That’s how I ended up with a ticket for the one that already left.
It’s going to be a long eight hours standing up all the way to Roma.
I’m about to jump off the train, but it’s too late. The train jolts forward.
He tells me don’t worry, he has a seat and motions to follow him. We pass row after row and car after car of occupied seats. He never hesitates. He has a plan. He opens up a compartment and ushers me inside. Suddenly, we are alone.
I am alone with an Italian man. I’ve heard all about Italian men. But I’m on the train. I’m going to Roma.
He leaves to go check tickets and says he’ll return. Why am I suspicious of kindness? Because he’s an Italian man who might want…a bacio? I don’t know exactly what people mean when they say beware the Italian men. I put in my headphones and listen to Christina Aguilera.
He returns and we chat in my broken Italian. He is so patient. I relax, beginning to trust him. I tell him I’ve studied in France before and now I’m studying in Torino, and that my grandfather is Italian. He is impressed with my international adventures. He is from Naples. I wish I could say more to him, but he doesn’t speak English and my Italian is limited.
After we pass through Genoa, we won’t be stopping again before we reach Roma just after sunrise. He asks a family in a sleeping compartment if I can take the empty bunk for the night, and they oblige. I pass out from exhaustion.
I wake up to soft knocking on the door. It’s the train attendant telling me this is my stop. (Thank God he woke me up, or I would have wound up in Naples!). As I step off the train he smiles as he shakes my hand and wishes me good luck. My eyes moisten. This time it’s tears of gratitude. How can I repay a stranger for such kindness?
I arrive at the airport, right on time. I embrace my brother and cousin. It’s his first international trip and her first plane ride ever. “You’ll never guess what happened…” I start as we hop on a big green bus to our hotel.
I’ll never forget the train attendant from Naples, who showed me such kindness for nothing in return.
And that is one of he 1,000,000,000,000 reasons why I love Italy.
Whatever it is that Easter and Christ represent to you, let us remember that all things are possible with faith and kindness. Let us believe that everything is always working out no matter how it may appear, and always be kind to each other.
Happy Easter! Buona Pasqua!