We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Return of Arnold

Not a day goes by that someone doesn't ask me to explain what prompted our move to Venice. My response is always that we'd vacationed here for several years, fell in love with the city, and decided life is too short to stay on the corporate hamster wheel we felt trapped on in the US. This slow life suited where we wanted to be for the remainder of our days, so we chose to jump off that wheel. And here we are.

Ah, Venice!
Ah, Venice!

However, truth be told, that explanation is the Readers Digest condensed version.  The real story involves a young 22 yr old German law student we met about 18 years ago.  So, for the first time ever, I'm exposing a bit more of our past, and the truth is being shared here with the entire blogosphere. (Heaven help me!)

Turn back the calendar to 1999......

My husband agreed to sponsor a 3-month internship for a German exchange student  at his law office near Baltimore, at the request of one of his clients. The client's mother's best friend's son (how's that for a mouth full) wanted to do his required internship somewhere in the United States, and Mike's client's mother put a little pressure on him to find something for this boy. Naturally, he asked his lawyer, Mike, who happens to be fluent in German, to help bail him out of a tough spot with his mother. You know all about mother's guilt trips. 

While there would be nothing this German student could do to assist with any legal matters during his stay, he could be put to use delivering documents to the court or miscellaneous tasks around the office. And, as this was to be funded by the German government as a required part of every law student's schooling, there would be no expense on Mike's part. Everyone agreed to the plan, and the deal was sealed. For the summer months of 1999, Arnold would be interning in the US. And all the German mothers were smiling.

What I haven't mentioned is the deal included Mike and I hosting this young man in our house for the first few days to help him get acclimated, arrange a short term apartment nearby and a rental car. Arnold, however, had other plans in mind, which he shared after his arrival.  You see, Arnold wanted to use the stipend he would be receiving for living expenses to travel all over the USA instead. He had his mini-bucket list prepared-Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Dallas, Miami.  The problem was he didn't have much in the way of funds other than his stipend, and that was needed to pay for an apartment and car. Arnold proposed that he extend his living with us beyond the few initial days instead of renting an apartment, and he could commute to work with Mike every day. Voila.  He could use the stipend money to travel while living rent free with us.  And, he really didn't expect to work very much, as that would interfere with his "Arnold Does America" grand tour plans. Such a plan!

Mike was all in favor of it. I, on the other hand, was less receptive, for two reasons. One, this was a total stranger staying in our home for 3 months, and I'm not immediately trusting of anyone. And two, perhaps even more of a showstopper might be that said Arnold was a moose. Seriously. I'm talking a big boy. A really big boy, who obviously consumed A LOT of food. I could not fathom what my grocery bill would be for the next 3 months. The only saving grace might be that he intended to be on the road traveling now and then. My counter proposal to Arnold was that he kick in a small amount each week for groceries. We struck a bargain.  Arnold was going to see the USA and Karen got some milk money. Win-Win. 

While I began the summer of 1999 with great trepidation, in actuality it turned out to be one of the best experiences of our lives. Arnold wasn't always a peach to live with, but who doesn't have their days? During the long summer evenings on the upper deck over dinners, wine, shared stories and lots of laughs, we forged lifelong friendships. I wouldn't have changed a thing. Little did I know then that EVERYTHING would change. Bigly (yes, that is a tongue-in-cheek borrow from You-Know-Who). 

About six months after Arnold returned to the motherland, a courier delivered an envelope to our front door addressed to Mike.  Inside the envelope, to our great surprise, was a voucher from a travel agent for round trip air for two and some additional dollars to be used for a trip to Germany-a thank you gift from that client who had instigated the whole Arnold internship, for all we had done for Arnold and for him. Karma, he said.  He knew Mike, of German ancestry, is a Beethoven fanatic who dreamed of visiting Bonn, the birthplace of the musical genius.  He was sending us there. 

I had never been to Europe before but had always dreamed of visiting Italy where my family is from, so naturally, I begged to split the trip between Germany and Italy. I was overruled, however, a compromise was struck.  We'd go to Germany, and then save money for a trip to Italy sometime in the near future. 

In March 2000 we did that Germany trip to not only Bonn but to numerous cities, including a couple of days with Arnold and his family. Upon our return home the Italy fund jar took up residence on our kitchen counter.  Promises kept, not long after our first Italian holiday began with a flight into Venice from JFK and our first (too short) visit in this magical city. 

 Everything really began with Arnold. If it weren't for him and our summer of 1999, we wouldn't have gone to Germany and I wouldn't have made that bargain for a subsequent trip to Italy. I know us.  Europe wasn't on our horizons at the time. We were not only mired in "this Old House" renovations but I was still making monthly payments to my divorce lawyer.  If we did take any vacations it was to the beach. Experiencing Europe for the first time adjusted our priority list dramatically, moving travel in general and Italy more specifically way up on that list.   As if this is any surprise, Venice stole both our hearts and our souls.  You know the rest of that story. 

 Bringing this back full circle, fast forward to tomorrow....

 Tomorrow morning, HE will be arriving for a couple of days. We haven't seen Arnold in 16 years!  I'm excited, anxious, and frankly over-the-moon to be having this very long overdue reunion, in Venice no less,  with the person who unbeknownst to him was a game changer in my life.  

And that's really how the Venice experience began. 


Anne V said...

Fabulous post Karen! So glad to have your posts to look forward to. Have a wonderful few days with Arnold 😄

Susan Varrone said...

Fun to read the "back story." And, as a result of your connection to Arnold and our connection to you and Mike, my family got the chance to experience Venice.

Michelle said...

Ciao bella,
Thank you for ending my Sunday evening with such a lovely story.
Give Arnold a big hug from me....a woman he will probably never meet. If it hadn't been for him I would never have met you and Mike!
Have a simply lovely time with your friend and showing him the city you adore.


Michelle said...

PS....that laundry looks awfully familiar....like what you see from Ponti dei Scudi.

KarenDianeArabella said...

A serendipitous moment in time, loved this story and can't wait to hear of the visit.

Shallow Sister said...

Love this story. My mother always said that it takes only one person to cross your path to change your life, and sometimes not even your path.

karen said...

Thanks, Anne! Having Arnold back with us for a few days was just the best time!

karen said...

Thanks, Sue! You know the time spent with your family here in Venice ranks right up there for me!

karen said...

Michelle- thanks! Yes, that laundry should look familiar to you! One of my favorite canals in the whole city. And I think of you every time I pass that little apartment by the bridge.

karen said...

KarenDianeArabella- Thanks! What a great visit for us. Thanks so much for reading my adventures!

karen said...

ShallowSister- Thanks! That's a great quote from your Mom! Love it!