|Arnold and Mike in Venice|
As I'd mentioned in my previous post, we hadn't seen Arnold in 16 years. I was apprehensive for this Venice meet up, to say the least! The original idea was for Arnold to stay at our place, however he was also bringing his girlfriend/partner. Given our apartment most likely wouldn't provide the privacy they'd want for a romantic holiday in Venice, coupled with the fact he'd have a long haul from our place early in the morning to catch a shuttle to the airport, he decided to stay in a hotel. He chose something close to the train station, wouldn't you know it? Couldn't get any farther away from our apartment than that! So, on arrival day the plan was he would check in to his hotel in Cannaregio, hop on a vaporetto and meet us at the San Pietro vaporetto dock. From there we were going to walk, see Venice, and eat.
He spotted me first as he came off the boat, I heard him exclaim loudly, "Karen!". Our eyes met. A huge smile broke out across his face. On mine too. He grabbed me for two kisses on the cheek and a hug. We both just clung to each other, longer than the normal hug-time, so happy to be reconnecting. After finally untangling our arms, Arnold reached over and did the same with Mike. We all just gave each other a long examining look, beaming like silly kids. Then he introduced Sondra, his girlfriend, and the hugs began anew. He looks the same as I remembered him, except there's a bit of grey hair now.
Of course we had to get through the requisite "How are you?"s. Once past that, Arnold wanted to know how in the world we ever got to Venice to live. Interesting question! My response was "It all started with you." I had to explain, because the last time we saw him was on our trip to Germany, the one that was a thank you gift for putting up with him for a summer. He didn't know that we had followed that trip with numerous vacations to Italy, as we'd gotten out of touch for several years. Since moving to Venice we've heard from him more often.
Throughout the short 2 day visit, there was lots of reminiscing. Mike and I were completely amazed at the little details Arnold recalled that we had forgotten, or never expected him to have memories of from so long ago. Little things like the name of Mike's dog (that Mike only had for a brief visitation )- long story- while Arnold was with us, or the strange old man Leroy, who did yard work for us. I didn't even remember that at all! He asked about all the people he'd met while with us in Baltimore - my daughters, our neighbors, Mike's law partner, the secretary who worked at Mike's office. The stories just flowed, as did the laughter, followed by tears of joy because the three of us just couldn't stop laughing. I felt so sorry for poor Sondra, and for the people around us at cafes and restaurants.
I was curious what Arnold had thought about his US experiences, if he had any fears about going to a foreign country to be with strangers for 3 months. He explained that he wasn't afraid. He was excited. And he knew it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When would he get an extended block of time to do something like that ever again? He described his expectation of staying with a "normal" American family, one that ate "Wonder Bread and fried chicken" (his words). Poor guy! I was sorry he didn't get what he had wanted, but he just beamed and said "But I got so much more! And you ate French bread! "
I could go on and on, relating details of the stories we shared but those are only special to us, so I won't. I didn't want to see him leave. I wanted him to stay for another 3 months! I'm still smiling today thinking about the last few days together.
Arnold and Sondra saw LOTS of Venice, all the must sees and much more of our favorite local places. We ate well, drank lots and shared moments we'll not forget. We all vowed to do this again, and not wait 16 years for it. I was touched to know that Arnold's memories matched ours, that all three of us felt a special connection back then, and still today. That warmed my heart. Now we can add another special Venice experience to our collective memories. Can't ask for more than that.
Note- the hotel Arnold stayed at : Eurostar Residenza Cannaregio. He and Sondra raved about it. They got some pretty fabulous rates, and the hotel even has a bar. Passing this tidbit on in case anyone is ever looking for a good Venice hotel recommendation.