Don’t expect any beautiful images of Tiramisu in this recipe I’m about to give you.
You will heal. I will help.
I have no clue what I was doing on the day I turned eighteen, but I can guarantee that where I was at was nothing compared to where Ceci is, as she celebrates her eighteenth birthday in Italy today (May 31, 2017).
We have missed Ceci every single day since she became our hardest goodbye.
Her family wanted us there for her big day today, but I didn’t even have a passport at the time (prompted me to get it ASAP), so I guess this blog from across the world will have to do.
When I thought about you turning eighteen, I remembered two things.
First, I remembered the little talk we had shortly before you left. Neither of us knew what the status of you + Luca might be once you returned to Italy. But what I told you was something along the lines of…..”girl, you are going to fly, and don’t make this the point in your life where anyone or anything can hold you back.”
At eighteen, and then again at twenty-two, I almost let a boy hold me back. Instead, at eighteen, I left to go to college, and at twenty-two, I moved by myself, across the country to California to work, play, and discover a whole new life.
You, Ceci, are beyond brilliant, talented, and lovely, and if you just fly, you will, without a doubt, look back someday and say, “I am so thankful I let nothing or no one hold me back.”
Which brings me to the second thing I remembered.
At just eighteen, it’s possible that you have taught me more than I have you. On March 30, you sent us an email stating many things, including one of my favorite lines,
But today I thought of you all the day, and I couldn’t be more happy for you and proud to be part (somehow) of this (our) beautiful growing family!
And at the end of the email, you translated a message from Italian to English for us on the journey as a metaphor for life. You could kill me for including it in your birthday post, but I wanted you to know how much I not only loved it but also how incredibly brilliant and advanced it is. I also wanted it in one place for you so you would always have the reminder of this journey in one place (and your thoughts on translation around that journey),
We always want to be, never to have been. And it repels us not to can live in two places at the same time, when either of them lives in our minds, or rather in our nervous system: in our bodies…Indeed we can be put on the road. But while the goal is getting closer and becomes real, the place from where we left departs and substitutes the destination in the unreality of our memories; we earn one of them and we lose the other one. Distance is in us, the true human condition….Yonder we dreamed our motherland, as in our motherland we dream abroad. But the first great trip leaves in the young, of any caliber and sensibility, a conflict that habits can’t compose; defines the idea of the oceans, harbors, separations; it almost creates, in the mind, a new form, a new category: the category of the distance; the consideration of all the far away lands.
It might be a vice.
Who has tried the distance hardly loses its taste. The first trip, the first night that the novo-pilgrim is on its way, nostalgia is born, forever. And it’s the desire to go back not only in our homeland but everywhere: where we have been and where we haven’t.
Two great directions alternate: homeward and toward out…
He doesn’t understand, perhaps, he doesn’t love his own country, who has never left it at least once, believing it was forever.
Ryan, Samarah, Isaiah, and Amiya wish you a very happy birthday, sweet Ceci! I hope your day is everything you hoped it would be.
p.s. If you were here today, I would have, without a doubt, made you my infamous Paleo Birthday Cake with Rainbow Frosting.
p.s.s. We are so looking forward to celebrating your graduation in Italy with you. T – 1-ish year (but who is counting anyways)?!
I know just as well as anyone else what a normal family is, and that the family we choose (either given to us biologically or not) is the perfect family.
You’d think I have been living under a rock, but Ceci has Ryan and I using WhatsApp so we can text freely with her, now that’s back in Italy. I had never used it before, and until her, I had not even heard of it. Am I 95-years-old or what?!
I published my last Ceci letter on Wednesday, right after she left. I titled it, “My Hardest Goodbye.” I didn’t wait for Ceci to give me her final thoughts because I didn’t want to inundate her with another “to do” immediately upon returning home to Italy, jet-lagged and all.
But in true Ceci fashion, on the 6th (yesterday), super late at night for her (1:30 am in Italy), she sent me a WhatsApp message, “Emailed you right now! (Still dealing with jet lag.)”
I opened the email, unsure about what I’d read. With her permission, the below is what she wrote (verbatim).
p.s. I titled it, “The Family We Choose.” And then I grabbed a Kleenex because, well, so has been the story of this week.
And here we are, the time that I wasn’t looking forward to, the time where I start waiting for an indefinite time to see you guys again, and it’s honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever have to do in my life.
In these past 5 months I’ve learned quite a bit how to deal with distance, but now it’ll be different: when I was there I had dates, I knew exactly when I was going to see one of my two families again, now I’m not sure of how long I’ll have to wait, and this is honestly freaking me out, I miss you, so much.
5 months flew by so fast, and I’ll never stop saying that!
But now it is the 6th again, so let’s focus on our last month (sigh!)
December, if I have to be honest, has been one of my favorite months, and it’s probably been because of Christmas and the trip to Minnesota.
This past month I learned, more than ever, that HOME TRULY IS A FEELING. I can guarantee that I’ve never, ever, ever, ever felt as a foreign neither at home in California nor at home in Waseca, MN, and between people that I’ve seen maybe even just a couple of times, I felt just as a member of the family, and they felt just family to me.
I learned to welcome new people, complete strangers, in my life, with no prejudices from neither sides; I learned to open myself and let everyone discover who I really was without any fear to be judged, and I learned that people can be really amazing. Because those people that I welcomed into my heart have really been able to take a big part of it, and now it’s full of love for every single one of them, and this truly is amazing.
But if I learned how to welcome people into my life it’s because they taught me how to do it by doing it first.
When I was in Minnesota I found myself being truly amazed from the people I met, and I’ll explain why.
When I first got to know Sarah and Ryan, I didn’t know there could be anyone else like them, I had never met anyone like them before, and I had never felt at home (but so far away from my home country) like that with anyone else before, and anyone had never welcomed me with such opened arms before, so I was already seriously amazed. Until the time that I met their families and discovered that there is a reason why they are such amazing people: because their families are just as amazing as they are.
So if there is something that I learned in these 5 months, it is that FAMILY doesn’t have anything to do with blood, instead, WE CHOOSE OUR OWN FAMILY, and however it is composed, as crazy as it could possibly be, even if we have to deal with distance between the members, even if it takes dedication and patience, even if sometimes we think it doesn’t, it fits us perfectly, and the love that you share with whoever you choose as your family can not be compared.
Loving and missing all of you so, so much.
I hug you tight,
p.s.s. Ceci – We’d choose you over and over and over again. You are the family we choose. XOX sweet girl.
p.s.s.s Ceci – Both our families adore you! They will love your letter.
“You are my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.”
We returned from Minnesota late last Tuesday night so it was understood by all that first thing Wednesday morning we would celebrate Christmas with just the six of us.
Like clockwork, I woke up super early that morning, when it was still dark.
As I rounded the corner to head for the kitchen, I noticed a light in the room where our tree was. I thought it was strange, but then, “Ryan must have forgotten to turn the light off after he finished placing all of Santa’s gifts out.” I went to turn the light off, and instead of seeing a light on, saw this. (Totally get that this picture will not do it justice.)
I literally sat there for like a half hour. I took all the pictures and video I could to capture how beautiful it really was. Sadly, there was no way to capture its beauty. It was so amazing, in fact, that we never turned it off. A couple days ago, the lights naturally died off.
We got home from bringing Ceci to the airport around 5 pm last night. When we walked in the house, I noticed some stuff on our table. Ceci left more things for us, including this (already neatly placed on the fireplace mantle):
My eyes swelled yet again.
We ate dinner, and after we put the two littlest down to sleep, I began unclipping all the pictures from their clips. They weren’t just pictures, either, Ceci wrote something, namely quotes, on the back of each one.
I read each, one-by-one, deep lump in my throat. (I cried a lot yesterday. A LOT.)
And then I knew I couldn’t go to bed until I wrote this because I had to make sure that Ceci got it immediately upon getting back to Italy.
I wrote you a goodbye letter but saved some little things from here-and-there that I hope we don’t forget (Many of them are inside things that only Ryan, you and I will “get.” And I like that about us!).
Ryan asked me as we left the airport what you said to me during goodbye. I told him I couldn’t remember. I really couldn’t because I felt so heartbroken.
Later, though, I remembered your most important words to me during goodbye, “Thank you for making my dreams come true.”
But no, Ceci…..thank you for all the joy you brought to our lives these past 5 months. I feel changed, in a weird way, because of you.
I am going to miss you so much, sweet Ceci. Like terribly.
People always said how hard it would be having a foreign exchange student, two children and one on the way. Looking back, I’ll tell you the only hard part is that now we had to say goodbye to that foreign exchange student because she wasn’t a foreign exchange student…..she is family, like the 17-year-old daughter we just would never ultimately celebrate a Gotcha Day with.
The back of one of your photos from the Christmas string of lights said,
I couldn’t love you more. – Ceci
WE couldn’t either, Ceci.
I know the days will get easier, and when I work in your room I’ll feel more at ease, but for today, just kind of a sting. A big sting to my heart.
You’re totally my hardest goodbye.
p.s. See you on Skype, via WhatsApp, (Isaiah will see you in his dreams!) and in due time…..in person. 🙂
p.s.s Silvia and Massimo – thank you, thank you, thank you. The whole world should be brave enough to raise a daughter like you have.
Ceci celebrated her first Thanksgiving this past month, and we all have so much to be thankful for.
On August 6, 2016, our adventures with Cecilia began, which means that this is the fourth “installment” of things Cecilia has learned, realized, thought, felt, etc. while being in the United States and living with us.
Last night, Ryan was gone, traveling for work.
This, of course, means that I am at home, alone, with all three children. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a million more times, but single parents are incredible. I feel like I’m drowning most days when Ryan is here, let alone gone.
But late yesterday afternoon, Amiya was screaming her lungs out, so I decided she needed fresh air. I got all the kids ready to walk and play at the park. It was about 3pm, and I remembered that Ceci would be home from school shortly. I quickly sent her a text to let her know we’d be gone when she would get home but that we were just down the street at the park.
I left the house and remembered that no, no I would not be alone that night.
I would have Ceci with me. She would help with the children at dinner time, like she always does, and then when I began putting the kids down one-by-one, she would help clean up the kitchen and entertain the children still awake.
I would be anything but alone.
But, it occurred to me, this blessing would be ending soon.
A month from now she will be gone, back home in Italy.
I can hardly believe it. (Truth? I’m preparing for some major heartbreak, for all of us.)
A photo posted by Cecilia Perassi (@cecilia_perassi) on
Verbatim from Ceci (some of her letter to me),
This month I celebrated my first Thanksgiving, which made me reflect on what I was thankful for. I couldn’t be more thankful for my families, yes plural because this is how my life changed in the last 4 months. I’ve been living with these people that I couldn’t consider as anything but family for me. And then, of course, my family back in Italy. But here and now I am thankful for everything that I get to experience and for this family, that makes it possible, no matter how hard it is.
It doesn’t even seem possible that Ceci’s time here is almost over. This last month is going to fly by. We have so many things planned, including our big trip to Minnesota where she will experience what Ryan and I did for most of our lives, family, friends, and a place so vastly different than California. She’ll also get to experience the Mall of America, but I don’t think she’s really looking forward to that:)
Ceci delivers her letter to me each month on the 6th. She leaves on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. I told her for the last installment, I’d like her to write the letter on the plane or when she gets back to Italy.
Time really does fly.
These past 4 months have been incredible.
November might be over, but we continue to feel so thankful for Ceci and all that she has brought to our lives.
“Being curious makes you richer.” Cecilia said it, not me.
Last week marked the completion of her first month with us in America.
It has been an incredible first month, to say the least!
Ceci is unlike almost any other 17 year old I’ve ever known. Her demeanor, spirit, and attitude are well beyond her years, yet she displays a side that is still very young and innocent.
Recently, I asked Ceci for one simple thing. I asked that on or around the 6th of each month while she is here, she submits to me three things she has learned, realized, thought, felt, etc. during the previous month.
I told her it could be as simple or complex as she wanted to make it, and that it would go on my blog.
This means that by the time she leaves on January 4, 2017, she will have submitted to me five monthly recaps or 15 total things learned/discovered.
And, of course, I would never ask her to do something that I could or would not do myself.
As such, the way that both she and I went about month one was vastly different.
On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, I was sitting at my office desk early in the morning. Ceci came out, gently handed me a folded up sheet of paper then headed for the kitchen to make breakfast and head to school.
I opened the paper, and inside were her three things (exactly as she wrote them).
It could not have been any simpler or more beautiful.
Her handwriting, thoughts, and charisma were clear as ice.
Did I mention she is seventeen?
I have read then re-read those three statements a multitude of times, and I can’t get over how well beyond her years they are.
With one month down and just four to go, I know we are trying to do our very best to ensure that her experience in America is the best it quite possibly could be.
Time is going so quickly, and even though we only have Cecilia for such a short amount of time, we do thank God for her coming to America and choosing us every single day.
And yes, Ceci…..being curious makes you richer. Thank you for reminding me of it!