Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Homecoming

We left the USA four years ago. This was our first trip back to see our families.  We chose Thanksgiving because it's a special holiday to us and to most Americans.  After a lot of emails for planning, we decided to go to Cedarburg, Wisconsin for Thanksgiving with Di’s family followed by a trip to Florida where Doug’s brother and daughter agreed to meet at Doug's step-mother’s home. This saved a lot of travel and created a second Thanksgiving-like feeling. Since our return, many people asked us what our impressions were after being gone that long. How did life in the USA strike us after four years in Italy? We will include these thoughts in our story.

This was the first time either of us traveled on a B-747. In 9 days, we used 5 planes. Rome to Frankfurt; Frankfurt to Chicago; Chicago to Jacksonville; Jacksonville to Washington Dulles, then to Rome. Of course there were trains to and from Rome – both of which had 1-hour delays!

We arrived fairly fresh in Chicago at 1330. Then, after poor directions from a car hire shop and poor local signing, we managed to spend 2 hours in creeping traffic into downtown Chicago instead of heading north to Wisconsin.

We upgraded to better seats on the flight to Rome and actually slept over 3 hours. Di took advantage of good shopping at the Florida airport, then the Napoli train station where she found one of those puffy coats with fur on the hood. We continue to blend our wardrobes with a variety of styles.

This old house dates to 1850's like our home in Italy. Different look.

Cedarburg, Wisconsin is one of those “cutesy” towns that tourists frequent year-round. It was cool with a little snow during our stay(-10C for several days). These are some scenes. Something quite common in the US, but not Italy, are single family home developments and big old wooden barns. Barns like these are found across much of the US. This is one thing Di noted as something with a different feel than in either Oregon or Calabria--it's part of the Midwestern scene, hardwood trees and farms mixed with suburbia and shopping.

One of the biggest differences between the two countries is the USA’s huge amount of shopping facilities. There are malls and giant stores around every corner. Doug took an empty suitcase to the US and filled it with  “stuff” that cannot be found in Calabria – mostly clothing, spices and some medicines. There are 11 McDonald restaurants between Cedarburg and our gate at O’Hare airport – a two hour drive. Sure, those junk food stores are also in most large Italian cities. Oh, and Starbucks coffee shops – boy are they everywhere now. Funny how an Italian café costs 70 cents, but an espresso at Starbucks is closer to $2 and not good!

Nephew Mike carves the turkey
The focus for our stay in Wisconsin was celebrating the Thanksgiving with Di’s family. Di's grand nephew and niece were full of the pilgrim spirit while we were full of the great food served. So far, it's the only holiday other than the 4th of July that we feel isn't represented in some form in Calabria. We don't miss fireworks, though, there are so many fireworks shows in Italia that we don't always bother to watch when we hear them outside. 

Italians are adopting more American things like Valentines Day and Halloween – Thanksgiving would be a perfect Italian festa because it involves eating huge amounts of food, like this turkey (pies in the background).

Kids as pilgrims--they made the outfits

We stayed at the Washington House Inn in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. 

We became used to the Jacuzzi spa/shower next to the bed. The bed, BTW may have been the most comfortable in the world...down mattress cover, microfiber sheets. Marvelous, darling.

The gift shops there would appeal to Italian tastes with very sweet candied apples. “What do you miss about the United States?” is a common question to us. Doug’s response is American trousers and food diversity in restaurants. In the US there are restaurants from most cultures in the world. Italians don’t even share food between regions much less other countries. Di misses those things too but not as much. Seeing familiar landscapes was bittersweet as they are distinctive in each country. She loved the clean beaches and and lack of litter in the USA. We weren't there long enough to re-appreciate the efficiency of getting things done quickly, but those things are all trade-offs where you get one thing (speed, efficiency) and miss the other (enjoying the moment, taking things a step at a time). We came to see our families that we missed and we enjoyed the rest with no regrets.

Low tide on Amelia Island, Florida
Yes there are palm trees, but this is not Calabria.  A 'quaint' vacation home in Barbara's neighborhood

Florida had nicer weather for us and we were able hike the beach two times. Below is our family after erecting the Christmas tree. It took awhile for three grown men to put a 3-piece tree together! Barbara turns 90 this month and rode a bicycle 10 miles. Amazing woman.

D&D,  Sean, daughter Nicole, step mom Barbara, brother Jeff

It was a fairly short and tiring trip given all the travel, but it was good to see family. It was also comforting to return home to Italy. So we had a homecoming going both ways.

Diana e Guido


  1. Hi Doug & Di

    It sounds like you had a good time, but it also sounds like you were pleased to be back in Italia, which is the way it should be if that is where your home is now.

    Buon natale e felice anno nuovo!

    John e Toni

  2. Sì, al punto, Buon Natale anche a voi!

  3. Good evenig from UK, hope are both ok! We always missing italian espresso here in UK...Starbucks is only expensive and poor quality! We are coming in February! See you soon!

  4. Doug nicely summed up life and food diversity here in the Milwaukee area at a local bar where we (okay, only my son and I had the fish) went for Friday fish fry :

    "It looks like a dump from the outside, but it's really very good."


  5. Buona Feste, Simona. Siamo contenti che ci vediamo presto!

    My Handsome Nephew, good to hear from you, love, Di



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