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Dear Luke and Leia,
I know this will be strange for you two grandchildren to read, but Venice is where I found my new travel partner. Okay, I will jump to the end before you guys get the wrong idea: Nana is my new travel partner. Yes, I know this seems confusing. Let me just tell you the story and maybe you will learn something from it.
We had been on the road for five weeks straight and now were ready to tackle Venice. Remember, Nana is vertically challenged (short) enough that the handle on her wheeled carry-on nearly reaches her waist. After dragging it through Ireland, Switzerland, Netherlands and Paris, she also dealt with lugging it up and down all the steps in Rome and Florence. Now it was the train to Venice, then the water taxi and the bridges arching over all those canals. Me? I just wanted to get to the hotel, dump the luggage and get out to explore the city. She was taking far too long.
In my rush to get us to our hotel every bridge was a struggle. There were no ramps on the bridges back then so I had to carry all my stuff over and then go back to help her so it wouldn't take ages to get to the hotel. Something finally snapped with my patience and I told her, “I will never travel with you again!”
Yes, I actually said it out loud. Suddenly, those beautiful brown eyes welled up and flowed down her cheeks as she began to apologize for not keeping up. I just shoved my backpack at her and carried both suitcases the rest of the way to the hotel without another word.
Then Venice happened.
As I had imagined, Venice is a magical town full of color, canals and romance. There is romance in the still waters of the canals reflecting the bright colors of the buildings and the quiet bridges connecting people on different sides of the water all sharing the same city. Looking at it through the lens of my camera, I became captivated. Venice just did something to me. Nana was the same, but something changed in me. The alluring charm of Venice seduced me.
All the misery and challenges I had endured to get to Venice were worth it as Venice revealed itself to me. Yet something was different; something changed as we wandered the streets. I just can’t put a finger on it; maybe it was the all this water surrounding the Venetian people that brought a sense of shalom or peace into my soul. I began to tie them to their sinking city. They were struggling together to preserve what they have.
Going back to the market to heal wounds
So with the silence killing me, we headed off to Venice's shops. Markets always bring about a great deal of conversation for Nana and me. The first thing I noticed there was all the Venetian glass, in every shape, size and color of the rainbow. It seemed as though every shop was loaded with it. I found it interesting how Venetian glass was originally made here on Venice Island but in 1291 the government forced the glass makers to move to the island of Murano to avoid the risk of fire due to all the wooden buildings.
The second thing I noticed was the weird looking, yet extremely colorful masks everywhere. Why would they have such unusual masks? That question made a good opening for making up with Nana, as she is so knowledgeable about the places we visit.
The masks are worn during Carnival but traditionally they were used from December 26 until the start of the Catholic lent season, also known as weeping for Tamuz in ancient times. Masks that are traditionally used during Venetian Carnival can be divided in to two groups: Commedia dell' Arte masks and Carnival masks. The Commedia dell' Arte was a type of improvisational theatre that was popular form 16th to 18th century but is played even today. Maybe they are on to something here: The masks represent the various roles that actors play during a performance.
Venice is where I found my new travel partner
So Venice had won. The masks of Venice became an analogy to me: We each wear different masks in our lives, depending on what role we are playing, and we see things a little differently depending on which mask we choose to wear. I have masks formy role as a husband, father, grandfather, son and friend. Now I have a new mask to wear: that of a travel partner. My new mask has helped me to see that everyone travels differently and has different challenges. The struggles we face when traveling as a couple are no different than any other in life; it is just that traveling seems to magnify those struggles more vividly.
Love is in the … gondola
Somewhere over a canal or on a lonely stretch of narrow cobblestone street, hidden deep within the city of Venice, I came to my senses. I didn’t lose my wife in Venice, I gained a travel partner. I gained a new understanding: Just as those Venetian masks, we play different roles as a couple as we walk through it hand-in-hand.
Maybe it was the unusual features in Venice, from scrollwork lamps to spiked buildings. It could have been the whimsical signage in various shapes that mark a business by an icon rather than words, or maybe the cafes along the canal, or perhaps the romance of the Grand Canal at twilight. I don't know, but something drew Nana and me even closer.
I finally figured out just exactly what we need: a gondola ride through the love-infested city of Venice. Seeing Venice from a gondola changes everything: It is not about the sights, but the experience. Venice is a city you just can’t go and see, snap a few pictures and call it a day. Venice brings much more to the table, something that breaks through barriers built up, to be dramatically broken down by the experience called Venice.
The Lesson of Venice
Venice took me to school and taught me a very important lesson that it would do you two very well to learn early in your lives. Life is a series of masks that we wear as we play different roles. Travel forces you to wear all those masks, so be prepared to pack each one of them. In the beginning of this trip, I had the mask of a husband and also packed the mask of a best friend. But Venice brought out the fact that I needed a mask of a travel partner, which is totally different than any other mask in the case.
Playing the role of travel partner
Thankfully, Venice had a travel partner mask readily available and I graciously accepted the offering. Now more fully equipped as I look through the mask of a travel partner mymself, I can grab life by the leg and jump for joy with my new found travel partner. Thank you Venice for your undying devotion to bringing out the best in those who are willing to receive what you have to offer.
Luke and Leia, the Bible says “all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” and this scripture was proven true here in Venice. What started out as a disastrous attempt to see Venice turned into a romantic experience of Venice.
Nana and Pap