Today, is Sunday, May 15th, my sister Tessi's 23rd birthday. Tomorrow is my brother and sister in law's 1st wedding anniversary--yea Lance & Roya! One year ago today, we were in a castle in Tuscany preparing for the wedding. It was cold and rainy just like it is here in Chicago today. Just as with most weddings, the hours leading up to the actual ceremony were somewhat stressful. But, in the end, a beautiful ceremony was held, followed by a magnificent evening of dining and dancing. What am I about to write may come across as mean, harsh and perhaps hurtful. LET ME SAY THIS NOW: IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM IS IT MEANT TO BE THAT WAY. I AM STRICTLY TRYING TO BE FUNNY AND SHARE OUR EXPERIENCE WITH ALL OF YOU ON THEIR ANNIVERSARY. ANYONE WITHOUT CHILDREN IS GOING TO PROBABLY TAKE THIS OFFENSIVELY. ANYONE WITH KIDS IS GOING TO HAVE A GOOD LAUGH. I LOVE LANCE & ROYA VERY MUCH AND WISH THEM A LIFETIME OF LOVE, HEALTH & HAPPINESS, AND MOST OF ALL A VERY LONG TRIP WITH KIDS IN TOW AND A HELL OF TIME TRAVELING WITH THEM. :o)
That's all nice and good. And being in a castle in Tuscany is magical, like out of a Disney film--that is, if you aren't traveling with 4 kids in tow. Yes, you read that correctly. We shlepped 4 kids (at that time, ages 11, 9, 6 and 5) half way across the world to be at this wedding. The first question most people asked me when I told them this was whether Lance and/or Roya lived in Italy. The answer: no. Were we Italian or was Roya's family Italian? Again, the answer was no. So, then why Italy? I suppose, because it's a very romantic thing to do. I am not married to a romantic nor was I the first time. I, myself, am not a romantic person. I like the idea of romantic things and gestures, but on a whole, I am not. I believe Lance and Roya are. I also think that Lance and Roya live in a fairy tale land sometimes. They do not have children. They have a ton of friends and many of them do not have children. It's quite simple to pick up and go whenever you want, wherever you want when it is just you and your spouse/partner/friend, whoever.
I expressed my deep concern over this trip to Lance when I found out they planned this Italian wedding. He wasn't interested. He simply told me that Steve, the kids and I would all be there. Period.
Just buying clothes, luggage, passports, copies of birth and death certificates and getting packed was enough to cause me to need Xanax on a daily basis for weeks leading up to this trip. I had a nervous breakdown while packing on the floor in my living room. I sat crying and called Tammy, who told me to stop. She came over a couple days later and packed for ALL of us in a matter of minutes. Thank G-d for her. I will say that our flight to Italy was not awful. Our flight was delayed, but that proved beneficial as it helped the kids to fall asleep easier on the plane. Tessi, who was also on our flight, had her hands full. She was busy waking the kids up to make sure they had their Dramamine so they wouldn't get sick, dealing with Andrew and his anxiety and Jordan,who also flew with us, decided to mix a bunch of pain killers for his back and was throwing up and she became his nurse.
When we landed in Rome, we found a very nice driver, whose name escapes me right now, who was able to fit all of us in his van to drive us to our hotel. We spent a couple of days in Rome which were fine. I am not big on site seeing. I mean, I know there are major things to see in Rome. The double decker bus tour was perfect for me and allowed nap time for those who still needed sleep. Then, it was on to Tuscany; the ultimate trip from hell and I wouldn't wish this kind of pain on anyone.
First off, we arrived at the train station. We had pre-purchased tickets and hoped to just walk to the correct platform with all 9 of us (my mother in law was with us as well) and our approx. 16 bags of luggage plus DJ equipment that Jordan was carrying--mind you...he was 6 months post-op from his Spinal Fusion and shouldn't have been carrying anything. We couldn't find ANYONE who spoke English in this hell hole. Tessi, who spent a semester studying in Spain, couldn't find anyone who spoke Spanish either. We thought we were at the correct platform and had gathered all of our things and people and were waiting. We found out, with literally minutes to go, that we were at the completely wrong part of the station. We had to go RUNNING with ALL of our stuff PLUS 4 KIDS up a ginormous flight of stairs and halfway across the station. Simon almost fell backwards down the concrete stairs while trying to pull a suitcase behind him. Not one person in the train station who watched this happen offered us any help at all. Tessi somehow managed to save him, told him to stop his crying and keep going. He actually listened. I went running (and if you know me, you know I only run when chased, and even then, I'm more likely to lay down and play dead) to try and find the right track. I kept trying to look back to see if kids were following me and they were. Tessi managed to find the right track and I followed her to the train. Kids were slowly dragging behind us but they knew better than to open their mouths and complain or else they would've been left behind in Italy forever. Tessi screamed at me to get on the train with the kids and to just find them seats. We needed to somehow get this luggage on the train in the overhead areas. So...I stood outside the train with the luggage while she kept screaming and swearing at all the non-English speaking people. Steve finally arrived at the train. Then it dawned on us that Jordan was nowhere not to be found. His back gave out from carrying all of his equipment. Tessi screamed at Steve to go help him, but Steve froze and didn't know what to do. So, Tessi went running to get him. I stood with one foot on the train and one foot on the ground so the train couldn't leave. Steve, who was 2 months post-op from hernia surgery was trying to pick up the luggage to put on the train. Tessi arrived back with Jordan who looked like he was about to collapse and started swearing again and made Steve, Jordan and me get on the train to catch the luggage she was about to throw at us. But, there was a group of women from some country we couldn't identify who refused to move from the doorway so we could do this. Tessi kept yelling to get the fuck out of her way and they just kept jibber-jabbing in whatever language, ignoring her. Tessi continued with her profanity and eventually they moved. Somehow, she managed to throw suitcases that each weighed 50 lbs over her head into the above seat compartments. We all sat in this non-air conditioned part of the train (even though we paid for 1st class) ready to die and had luggage at our feet as well, so no one could even move, when we began texting our mother. We started to tell her of this horrific situation we were in. She tried to be sympathetic. It wasn't working.
On this 2 hour ride, we sat, sweating, starving, and exhausted talking about how we were going to let Lance have it when we got to the castle. My mother kept texting all of us to see how we were doing and at that point , it was like, what the fuck do you want us to tell you??? This is a NIGHTMARE. Jordan, though, who had no money and was supposed to stay in Europe for a few more days after the wedding, texted my mom telling her he had no money and she better change his plane ticket so he could leave with the rest of us. She felt badly since he was in so much pain and told him not to worry, she'd help him. Well played, Jordan.
We arrived in Arrezzo and had to somehow get all of our luggage off this train. So, Tessi makes us all get off, and she literally is throwing these suitcases at us. Then, Lance's friends, who were on the train in the real 1st class section showed up. They offered to help us. They should've run far, far away. While one of us stood with one foot on the train and one on the platform and Tessi threw luggage, some guy, carrying a plastic bag of various drugs, kept yelling at my mother in law in Italian. She kept pointing her finger back at him and yelling "no, no". The two just kept yelling at each other, but, it bought us enough time to get all the luggage off the train. The next challenge was how to get all of us and the luggage down all the stairs. The kids just started dragging bags when Tessi and I spotted an elevator. We headed over there and got into the glass box with a bunch of bags and Steve. The elevator made some weird noise, he stepped out, the doors shut and he left us there not knowing if we were going to live. Thanks. We all met up at the bottom and needed to find cabs to get us to the castle. After much hard work, we found cabs and just started shoving people into them. One of the boys ended up going with Lance's friends. They asked us if they were getting the "good one". Sure. Whatever you wanna hear. Just get in the G-d damned car.
The ride was so super nauseating, it's a miracle none of us threw up on one another. We drove around in circles up this mountain at full speed. When we finally arrived at the top, we all piled out of the cars. Jordan wanted to know where the bell boy was to take our bags. I told him to look in the mirror. He said, "fuck this". We all went to find Lance to let him know just what we went thru to get there. He basically said he didn't give a shit.
Our time at the castle was not what we had anticipated due to the explosion of that volcano in Europe right before our arrival. The ash was screwing up the weather and it was FREEZING and raining. I didn't pack warm clothes. My poor children wore the same sweatshirts for 10 days straight. We couldn't head into town because I didn't have enough Dramamine to deal with the twirly mountain cab rides down and back up and to take the flight home. We bought the wrong adapters for our cell phones and the boys Nintendo DS's. So, in the house we had at the castle that we shared with Tessi, we all had to take turns with her charger. We were losing our minds without our phones and toys.
The staff at the castle was marvelous. They were so wonderful to us and the kids and made us feel very welcome. The wedding was just beautiful and we enjoyed ourselves.
Then, we had to come home. Just when we thought we had we had survived a nightmare, another one was about to begin.
We opted to forget the train ride back to Rome. We rented a very nice limo bus (thanks Mom!) and arrived back in Rome in less than 2 hours. We had air conditioning. Everyone had room to sprawl out and nap. It was fabulous. Because I am smart and I prepare, I made sure everyone showered before bed and laid out everyone's clothes for the morning flight. This way, it would be simple to leave the hotel.
I woke up the next morning and knew something wasn't right. I went to look at my phone and saw I missed a call from American Airlines. I had left the phone on vibrate, which I never do. Oops. I call them back to find out our flight had been canceled. WTF?????? So, they put me through to a sales rep. She says that our direct flight was canceled but she can get us on a flight to NYC and then onto Chicago but it leaves 90 minutes earlier than our original. I look at the clock. We literally would need to leave instantly. I make sure she books the 6 of us, my sister and my mother in law, and then I wake everyone up. We were out of the hotel in less than 10 minutes...would've been sooner if Jordan hadn't been beating around the bush trying to ask me to give him some cash.
We arrived at the airport and barely made it thru security and what not to find out that they didn't book my mother in law on the flight. Tessi, again starts swearing. The airline rep tells her to "not use those words" with him. They were inches from arresting her. But, she calmed down. They got my mother in law booked and in business class, no less. We make it on the plane. Our seats are spread out and one of the kids ends up next to a friend of Lance & Roya's. She looked panicked. "Will he be ok here? Is he going to need things?" LOLOL. "No, he'll be great." I tell her. BAHAHAHAHA.
We arrived late in NYC...330pm to find out they let our flight to Chicago leave without us AND there were no more flights that day from JFK to O'hare. Are you fucking kidding me????? So--we had to go to LaGuardia to catch a flight. I just sat down on the floor. And, if Tessi hadn't been with us, I'd still be sitting there today. We split into 2 cabs to get there. Tessi, again screaming and swearing at the driver. He told her to shut up at one point. Steve's cab driver was Osama Bin Laden's long lost twin. Simon asked him if he was a Rabbi. Good move, kid. Then when Steve's cab arrive at LaGuardia, he realized he had no cash. All he had on him were Euros. And, the cab driver took them!
Thank G-d the American Airlines rep at LaGuardia was sympathetic to us, looking all beat up and exhausted. She got us booked and we headed to the gate. Again, we were all starving. Tessi and I hit Auntie Annie Pretzels and pretty much bought out what they had. The people in line behind us were less than thrilled. And a couple hours later, we made it home. In my life, I had never been so happy to touch down in Chicago.
People have asked me if I still am upset about this trip. What do you think?