it is no small thing to gather as a family across the atlantic and deep into the tuscan countryside, but that's what we did, parents and brothers and sisters and babies brown. we hadn't all stood in one place since nicky moved to serve in peace corps senegal in september, and this is an iteration of the brown family that's never before been: last we were together, an heirloom-tomato sized francis was tucked in my belly, and now we are ten and there are cousins, plural.
we landed in rome and made way north, eyes hooked on the windowpanes as the rolling vineyards of tuscany whirled by. the landscape seemed to stretch on forever: terra cotta rooftops and uncountable shades of green, storybook towns rising from the hilltops and wending roads you ache to follow just to see where they lead.
we stayed in a villa on the fringe of cortona surrounded by bushes of rosemary and olive groves that reminded me of our honeymoon. mornings, grandma and papi went to town in the earliest hours and brought back croissants filled with apricots and cream. one by one, each of us would spill onto the lawn for creamy coffee and talk of how to spin out the time. most days, we made way into cortona to explore on foot, discovering honey-colored streets and narrow cobblestone alleys. we wandered into trattorias covered in honeysuckle vines and asked waiters to order for us. they'd reappear with bottles of red and salty salumi and soft cheeses and pastas dusted in shaved truffle and pistachio. it was usually sunny and sometime it wasn't, and that's when fog chased the hills and i loved tuscany most. we whiled away afternoons napping by the pool and driving from town to town and licking cones of stracciatella. nicky served a traditional senegalese feast of chicken and vegetables and showed us how to share it. ella covered francis in kisses, and francis went swimming for the first time in his life. we were grateful to be together, and in such a breathtaking way.
memories of tuscany smell of roses and thick coffee and the good, good earth.