The 3 p.m. Flight to Italy: A Conversation in Dreams (CV: Europe)

"Sunflowers" by Vincent Van Gogh

“Sunflowers” by Vincent Van Gogh

I’m waiting for a flight to Italy. My mother is seeing me off.

The summer between her sophomore and junior years of college, my mother planned to take a trip to Europe with a high school girlfriend. But a handsome young man in Navy whites asked her to marry and she said yes.

Growing up I heard that story again and again: How my mother was planning to go to Europe the summer she married my father instead. That’s why she’d never been to Europe. That’s why she hadn’t finished college.

 I’m waiting for a 3 p.m. flight to Italy. My mother has packed my bags for me. “Do I have underwear in there?” I ask, patting my large green suitcase. “Of course you do,” she answers.

My mother would have loved that trip to Europe. She’d have visited the Louvre. She’d have sat in cafes, spent hours in bookstores, and strolled the banks of the Seine.

Just minutes before my flight, I tell my mother there’s a problem; I might not be able to go. She cries out: “No, no! You must go!”

When I was 12, my mother returned to college. Around the same time she and my father divorced.

The spring of my sister’s junior year abroad in Paris, my mother and I boarded a plane (I was 16, she 44) and we each took our first trip to Europe. Together.

I unzip the bags my mother has packed for me and find an entire backpack filled with potato chips. No guidebooks.

The year I graduated from college, my mother received her PhD. She never remarried. When she was in her 60s, she left her job in museum education and began to take yearly trips to Europe.

In dream after dream I miss my 3 p.m. flight to Italy.

My mother has dementia now. She still lives alone—except for her personal care attendants. She is surrounded with beauty: books of poetry given to her by past boyfriends, coffee table art books, and paintings of sunflowers that remind her of the fields of flowers in Italy. Almost always, there is a vase filled with fresh sunflowers on her dining room table.

Sunflower faces

It’s 2 p.m. and we haven’t yet left the apartment. “We’ll miss the plane!” I exclaim. “We’ll make it,” my mother replies calmly. “But it’s an hour’s drive to the airport …” My mother is unperturbed. “We’ll see,” she says.

Recently, I received an email an old friend of my mother’s. She wrote:

Your mother and I were supposed to go to Europe together that summer … but the engagement led your mom to cancel, and I accepted a friend of hers as my traveling companion. We sailed on the French Line’s Liberte, which was quite a treat …

Suddenly our family’s private myth became a real story, with a real woman whose plans were disrupted by my mother’s engagement. Someone else took my mother’s place on the boat, and saw the sights she would have seen.

The dreams came the night I received this email.

Of all the places she visited, Italy was her favorite.

That’s one country I’ve never yet seen.

© 2013 Tzivia Gover

Mom and me.

Mom and me

Corner View is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. Start here to visit more Corner View blogs.



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16 responses to “The 3 p.m. Flight to Italy: A Conversation in Dreams (CV: Europe)

  1. What a gorgeous story… Sounds like you may have enough for a whole book in there! Write it!! My hubby went on a year long trip around the world after graduating college, his friend, having met a girl right before, wanted to cancel but hubby threatened him with bodily harm and the friend had no choice but to go. 🙂 The friend is happily married with that girl, she waited for him 😉

  2. gis

    A great story, and as dreams can come true, just catch that plane and come to visit Italy: we are waiting for you!

  3. Bev

    What a beautiful and beautifully written story!

  4. what a story….i’m (kind of) glad that your mother now is happy with the lovely things around her, the sunflowers.

    i hope you can go to italy one day, i would love to go to there too!!
    who knows, maybe we meet there!

  5. Thank you for your beautiful story! I hope you will come in Italy one day, it will be a big day 🙂

  6. Hi Tzivia, beautiful story, a tale I have heard, and even been in (the Paris part!) but reading it here anew it is as fresh as a field of sunflowers.. I know Jane always said she wishes we will all go to Italy…so I am sure the story continues…I love that you received all these invitations there!!
    a dream….Jane and I will be with you and we can meet our friends from Corner View!
    With a suitcase full of potato chips!

  7. What a beautiful story. Enjoy that italy for you and your mother.

  8. bittersweet story of an impressive chunk of your lives! i love the intertwining effect, as is life.
    i agree on the bit joanne adds, very welcome. we can renew & all that. ;)))

    i hope your mum’s okay. sounds like she’s having her european ball all the time, which we can hope for too, as we get on.

  9. So happy that your mom made it finally to Europe and I too took my first trip to Europe with my mother.

  10. i think your mom would enjoy “a traveler in italy” by HV Morton, maybe there’s an audio version?

  11. Pingback: Q&A: How Do I Make This (Recurring) Dream Stop? | All the Snooze That's Fit to Print

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