Tuesday, August 13, 2013

We Took the Road Less Traveled

"Where troubles melt like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops. That's where you'll find me."- from Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I was tired, hot, cranky, and annoyed. (I'm sure this comes as no surprise.) This was not my idea of a vacation. This is not how we had said we would spend our 10th Anniversary celebration. My Director had totally hijacked our day and dedicated it to shopping. No...looking for the perfect gift to repay my sister and brother-in-law for watching Peanut for the two weeks we were away. This is one area where we, and I believe most men and women, differ. Shopping. I don't look for things. I think of what I want ahead of time and I set off to buy things. Or, I see something and impulsively say, "I'm going to buy that," finances willing. But I never say, "I want something like this so I'm going to go look for it." That's just a waste of time. Nonsense.

Yet, here we were. Immersed in nonsense.

This is 1 of nearly 6,000 identical stores.
But look at her in her cute hat. I can't stay mad at her.
We were on the island of Murano, the place in Venice famous for its hand-blown glass. And My Director had taken a one-way boat to Nutsville, obsessed with buying a set of glasses. We went into every store, on a mission. It was maddening because all of these stores are the same, except for infinitesimal differences in each figurine, light fixture, or piece of jewelry. I was stuck in Venetian Groundhog Day and I needed out. So I threw a bit of a tantrum. Albeit, a strategic, impassioned, but sympathetic tantrum. To my surprise, it actually worked.

Still, I was tired, hot, cranky, and annoyed as we boarded a boat to head back to mainland Venice, Piazza San Marco. First we had to make one last stop at "Murano Faro." This is the only place where you get a boat to the island of Burano. One of my wishes for our trip was to go to Burano, because it's little known, quiet, far away. But at this point, in the state I was in (the "done with shopping" state), I felt defeated and resigned to go back.
This selfie proves there were actually more happy
moments on Murano than not. (And that I am terribly bald.)

"Last chance," My Director called to me. "If you want Burano we have to get off here. Now."

Knowing the boats wait for no one, I glanced at the quaint area around the stop. I thought of taking The Road Less Traveled, something I wish for Peanut to do in her life. To push herself. To take risks in order to achieve greater rewards. To go where few dare. In that instant I thought, what kind of hypocrite would I be if I didn't follow my own advice for my daughter? And an instant later, despite my exhaustion and annoyance, despite the triple-digit heat calling me back to our air-conditioned hotel room, I said "Lets go." We quickly hopped off the boat to catch the one to Burano.

As we waited, My Director quickly found a nearby street merchant who was selling - wait for it - glasses. Serenity now. After another argument over "the perfect set" with "wow factor" and "are they them," I was most definitely done. As much as I love this woman, it took all of my willpower not to cast her into the polluted waters of the Grand Canal. Burano needed to save me. It needed to save us. It certainly did.

Burano. Ain't it nice?
(That's the leaning tower in the background.)
Now the road less traveled is long and hard, and so was this boat ride. But once we got off... we found a quiet tranquil gem tucked away in the far off waters of Venezia. (I should have been a travel writer.) Colorful houses lined the canal. Gone were the crowds and the noise. Finally, peace. Vacation. I would later tell My Director that all I needed was "a moment" to get me out of my funk - which she had put me in, by the way. And in a few minutes, on Burano, I would get it.

There is a leaning tower on Burano that I had read about. Not quite the Tower of Pisa, mind you, but I thought something worth checking out. We spotted it from the boat and felt like tourists again, in a good way. Finally, something to see that's NOT in a store. The tower was a short walk from a store where I had just bought a blue linen shirt. Again, not something I was looking for, but something I had found, liked, and quickly bought - at a discount after minimal haggling. We walked, necks craned to the sky, looking for the leaning tower. Burano is too small for maps or directional signs. So this was how we'd find it. As we got closer, we came upon a square. In it, a church. Without saying a word, we headed - almost gravitated - inside.

It was in Venice the last time we were here for our honeymoon that we had decided "no more churches," except the big ones. "You've seen one, you've seen them all," we had said. But something other than our quest for that leaning tower brought us inside that particular church. Something unexplained. Something powerful. The church was as silent as you could imagine. Marble floors. Frescoes. Just like a hundred or a thousand other churches you might stumble into on a tour of Italy. I approached the font of holy water to bless myself when I heard My Director say, "Look. It's St. Francis."

And so it was.
St. Francis.
Now I knew. Now I knew why we had taken The Road Less Traveled. I knew what drew us to this place. To this island. To this church in the corner of it. Not a tower, not a shirt. No, a sign. I believe everything happens for a reason. And I believe we came to this island to see that statue. That fresco. Of St. Francis. My dad's favorite saint. To light two candles. To say two prayers, and know that my dad is with us. Watching us. Helping us.

I had to go to this remote place in the country where his ancestors and his faith were born to be reminded to have faith, to work it out, to love. To be an instrument of peace, as he had been for me.

I lit the candles while fighting back tears, said a prayer for safe travels for us and our loved ones, and headed out to find the tower, which we did in no time. We took pictures and then had gelato to eat while we waited for the boat back to the main island. We were happy we came here. We had found our moment. And we had found it on The Road Less Traveled.

In my mind at the time, on that boat ride back, that's where I thought this story would end when I finally got around to writing it. But there is a post script... After dinner later that night, we made our way to Piazza San Marco, and enjoyed a wonderful, magical evening in the square taking in the sights all lit up at night and listening to the bands serenade us with wonderful music. One of them played Somewhere Over the Rainbow: 

I fought back tears again as I listened and thought about the question from Peanut that inspired this whole "Road Less Traveled" thing. We were watching The Wizard of Oz for the first time. As the Munchkins started to sing "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," she asked me, "What happens if you follow the red one?"

See? There's a red one too.
The Road Less Traveled.
And wouldn't you know, there IS a red brick road. Peanut saw it. It's also Somewhere Over the Rainbow, way up high. Not many people follow it, but boy is it worth it. I first wrote about it, and answered her question, HERE.


  1. Gah you bastardo, you made me cry again.

    1. This is one of my favorite posts ever. I hope it had you laugh first. ;-)


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