Ice Cream: My memories of 9/11
Its been ten years, and like many, I remember that day so vividly. I don’t know why I remember so many details about that day as opposed to the day before or the day after.
My parents, brother and I were traveling in Italy. I believe we were driving from Genoa to Bedonia, which is a little town in Parma (like Parmesan cheese) where my Great Grandfather Luigi Bertani was born. I don’t remember the make of our rental car, but I remember it wreaked of its previous driver and cigarette smoke. It was an exceptionally hot day and the seats in the car were dark leather which made it all worse, and my mother hates air conditioning because it makes her arthritis hurt so … I had to endure the heat.
Now of course, none of us could speak or read Italian, so getting lost was part of our usual daily routine on our vacation. I swear we were lost while driving and took some crazy back road that wound around a mountain. Meanwhile, my mother blurted out, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some ice cream on this hot day?” Ever the optimist.
Of course it’d be nice. We were all miserable and Italian Gelato is pretty much the most amazing thing in the world, and we were in the sweltering heat of a smokers car driving up a mountain road that is windy, making us mildly nauseous, and at that moment nothing would have been a better refreshment than Ice Cream.
A few more minutes go by, and my mother can’t let it go and began singing “Ice Cream” from the musical “She Loves Me,” by Bock and Harnick. The day from hell just got worse. To top it off (that exceptionally annoying cherry on top of the whipped cream) my mother decided to pray out loud. “Dear God, please send us some ice cream on this hot day. Amen.”
Really? I was appalled. In my mind, God had better things to do than to send us ice cream. He doesn’t listen to petty prayers like that. For crying out loud, we were on a freaking mountain that had this tiny narrow road, we almost died about a hundred times, there is no ice cream or town in sight, why even bother praying for something so trivial.
At this point, we were still miserable, and my father decided to pick up the speed to get us to our destination faster. Not five minutes go by before my mother yelled, “STOP! TURN AROUND!” Who is this woman kidding? Here we were on a steep winding mountain, and she wanted us to turn around? So my father (who is an excellent driver) maneuvered our way back down the mountain just a few car lengths and sure enough, to our left, was a cafe with a sign in the window that said, Nestle.
We parked next to this small cafe, and walked in. There next to the register was a freezer, with all sorts of delicious frozen treats (none of which were Nestle but that doesn’t matter). We bought our ice cream, and walked to the outdoor seating on the balcony which looked over the valley. The view was incredible: a tiny village built on a mountain side, and down the valley. It truly was remarkable, but not as remarkable as our ice cream. Never had I appreciated ice cream more in my life, to this day.
After taking some pictures to document our miraculous finding of ice cream, we proceeded on our way and not long after that came to the town of Bedonia. Bedonia is small and I believe has one hotel/inn which we stayed at and were the only guests. The inn was beautiful, with a marble floor in the lobby, as well as a huge bar/restaurant to the left. In it’s day, I am sure this inn was the happening spot of that tiny town. Exhausted, my parents and I decide to lie down for a few minutes before we go to have dinner with our relatives. One of my cousins whom we were going to meet with later that day for dinner then called my father on his cell phone, and asked him, “Do you what happened to your country today?”
I didn’t know what the twin towers were, quite honestly, but I did find out very shortly. We met a few of our relatives at this small Irish Pub (an Irish Pub in a small Italian town. Strange, I know) and there we watched on the television screen the planes flying into the twin towers. My stomach dropped, and I remember thinking it couldn’t be real. Also at the pub were these women from New York and New Jersey crying…one of them had a family member who worked at the Towers.
I don’t remember much else from that night except being so confused and scared about what happened, wondering if we were going to get home safely or at all in a few weeks…the rest of our trip went by so smoothly. I saw the building in which my great grandfather was born. I dipped my feet in the mediterranean and washed off my shoes what had dog poop on them (different story involving crunching leaves… don’t do it at night in the dark). I rode for about 15 seconds in a gondola in Venice, and had birds land on my head in San Marco square.
I sometimes wonder where God was that day; how could something like that happen and all those innocent people die? But I suppose that could be said for a number of tragedies, from the Holocaust, to those dying of starvation in Somalia today. He knew we’d be needing comfort in that time of loss and fear, so he sent us ice cream. Now, ten years later, I still remember that day, though I do not always feel that same comfort. But, what I do know now though, is that no prayer is too small for God to listen to or answer.