Return to Sicily

My life straddling two cultures.

Becoming a mother in New York, in the midst of an April snowfall, 1979.

Coming back most summers to Scopello, an enchanting village in north-western Sicily.

The move to Seal Beach, Orange County, California. Never further than a quarter of a mile from the ocean. Beautiful days on the beach, wondrous nights with friends watching the stars from the jacuzzi. Cooking great pastas, dancing and singing.

I met my husband in Florence where I was studying at the School for Parliamentary Interpreters. He was a medical student from New York who had not been able –like many others- to get into medical school in the States.

Long story, long life.

My wonderful life in Southern California. I did not own a coat for 24 years, 72 degrees fahrenheit being the average temperature all year round, sub-desertic climate and all. Trips to Catalina Island, Las Vegas and then, when we got wealthier, the great trips: Thailand, Bali, Tahiti…

Most summers were spent in Scopello where my family had a magical place my father built in front of the Faraglioni, the capri-esque rocks in the middle of the bay. We deserved it, it was our birthright, our summers were sacred. My daughter Julia enjoyed her cousins’ crazy antics and the dangerous excursions we submitted her to. She spoke simple Italian with everybody, she belonged. All of a sudden she had grandparents, relatives of all sorts, no rules. It was like living on the edge of the abyss and not being concerned about it. It was an emotional plunge into a life that was no longer mine.

When we left to go back home in the States at the end of our stay, everyone wanted to take us to the airport and perform the whole farewell drama, seasoned with tears. As an expat, I could no longer do that: I knew I wasn’t able to fly back crying and hugging the hostess throughout the long journey. I had mastered the art of removing my feelings of sadness and saying goodbye in a sporty fashion; “See you tomorrow, guys…”. I stole through the night with a hired driver in order to avoid all that. Yet, my insomniac mother would always manage to be by the door in the pre-dawn hour, wanting to hug, cry, or make me completely miserable. I would literally get away in a life and death sort of escape.

On board my several flights, I was already looking forward to resuming my wonderful California life. Sicily was not real, it would soon dissipate in a whiff of exported Limoncello.

Years went by, moons blossomed and died, life took over with its unforeseen developments. I flew back to Palermo, this time for good.

The plane landed softly , almost brushing against Montagna Longa (the Long Mountain). It looked and smelled differently from any other landing.

That was my home already.

I was no longer running, I was staying.

Aurora Fatta Meltzer
Aurora lives in Palermo. She is a former restaurant expert/concierge at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. She's also a freelance interpreter and technical translator

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I am born and raised in New York, but met my husband in Palermo, now after 35 years, will be moving back there. Although I am American born, I have always felt that Palermo was home.

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