As weeks go, the last one was pretty eventful. What surprised me was the event I thought would be emotionally difficult was actually fun and the one that I thought was no big deal, was the one where I teared up. You just never know.
I had been dreading my 40th birthday since midnight on New Year’s Eve and when it finally came last week, I found myself surrounded by great friends in my favorite place and loved every minute of it. 40, it turns out, is just a number.
My birthday had many highlights but the true star of the day was my friend Adam, who flew from New York to Italy for a grand total of 12 hours. He arrived at 2.30pm and by 2.30am was back in the car for the long drive back to Rome for a 7am flight back to New York (via Frankfurt!).
Ben, who had given the the most creative gift, a blog post mentioning Many Kitchens, started our dinner off by grilling 3 Florentine steaks that were so large that they barely fit on our barbecue. I made a huge potato gratin with leeks and pancetta, some roasted zucchini and a large salad. And Leda, without whom, our house would have fallen down years ago, had brought over the most delicious cake. The obligatory midnight dip and a round of my favorite board game, Articulate made for a fantastic birthday. It was our last night in the house and it was perfect.
The following morning, a little bleary eyed, we packed up and closed the house and went our separate directions. Kate and I headed off to Florence for one night in my favorite hotel in the world, Torre di Bellosguardo.
It sits on a hill just outside the city and the views are kind of ridiculous in their perfection. I kept searching for an Ikea or something to remind you that it’s the 21st Century but it’s impossible. Storms threatened but stayed away long enough for us to have rooftop cocktails looking over the River Arno and back to the hotel to admire a comically large moon over the city with all the main buildings lit up.
So back to reality and NY after a couple of days seeing family in London, extending my birthday celebrations. Event number 2 was my Swearing In Ceremony for my US citizenship which was scheduled for the Friday of Labor day. Many friends were naturally away and those in town, I told not to bother coming. I was just going to go in there, do my thing and run to the train to head up to Cape Cod. As I stood in a room with hundreds of people and their extended families, I began to realize that it was actually a pretty big deal.
I think because the process had been so easy for me that I hadn’t taken on board how hard people fight and how long people wait for this enormous privilege. I texted my friend Camille a slightly desperate message asking her to come to Federal Plaza if she could. She hopped on her bike and my friend Leigh who happened to call at just the right moment, hopped on the subway. They both got there just in time. 150 people from 53 different countries all about to become naturalized together. We were each asked to stand when our country was called out until all 150 of us were upright and ready to pledge allegiance. I think that’s the point that the tears came as all the relatives rushed around us to take photos of us with our right hands firmly in place for the oath. Camille and Leigh were in the crowd and beaming at me like proud parents.
I felt the need to celebrate with my two witnesses in a very American way so we rushed to The Corner Bistro for a juicy burger (my favorite in NYC) and fries before I headed off to Penn Station. I had been ignoring the fact that I had a hacking cough and a bit of a fever as there was just too much to do. I figured a sleep on the train would fix me up and I was still on a high from all the day’s excitement.
I arrived in Cape Cod to stay with my friend’s Lolly and Tim to find a true American welcome. They had pinned a huge American Flag above my bed and prepared the perfect dinner of ribs (that Tim had been smoking all day), moist corn bread, juicy corn and crunchy coleslaw. Two all American meals in one day – not sure how my waistline will survive all this Patriotic eating!
Unfortunately, the American flag I slept under, while making me smile, didn’t give me quite the protection I needed from the next day’s Pneumonia diagnosis which put a bit of dampner on the weekend’s festivities. It was the first clam bake I had missed in 15 years but I can think of many worse places to be sick than being cared for by the incredibly maternal Lolly in such a beautiful place. So I’m using Pneumonia as my excuse for no recipe this week and some photos instead.
Sadly there is no photographic evidence of the other few dramatic/hilarious events that happened last week, such as me mistaking my bikini strap for an enormous viper in the pool and almost drowning from fear or the car breaking down 5 miles from Heathrow airport in the middle of a massive junction and my mother trying to hail any passing vehicle to take her daughter. You'll just have to use your imagination.