After Carolyn gave us our tour of Demeure’s exquisite Le Petit Hôpital, we met the two chefs who would be cooking our dinner that night. (!) They were young, adorable, very cool, had great taste in music (which was playing softly in the living room), and we knew immediately that we would be in capable culinary hands.
Even better, before heading into town for supplies they introduced us to their own personal stash of top-shelf liquors. And so it was that we found ourselves drinking gin & tonics on the terrace outside the “small” kitchen.
Then an insane Frenchman arrived, introduced himself, pulled up a chair, accepted a drink, and proceeded to be absolutely hilarious:
He is friends with the villa’s owner and knows both Carolyn and the chefs well, but I am horrible with names; so it was lucky that when they came back to the villa all I had to say was, “There is a lovely and insane Frenchman on the back terrace with us.” They knew exactly who I was talking about, fixed their own cocktails, and the evening was off to an official start.
It was an idyllic scene: late afternoon sun filtered through the sycamore trees; a light breeze rustled the leaves growing up the side of the villa; an occasional click of a shutter when someone discovered yet another beautiful corner of the grounds; friends old and new gathered around a mosaic table, laughing and chattering and breaking off into small conversations; and everyone knew that it was only the beginning.
At some point the crunching of driveway gravel sent me, Mr. And Mrs. Pants, and Mel running to the front of the villa just as the Gay Mafia fell out of the car and into our arms. Hugs and hugs and hugs and more hugs, and the chefs appeared with a bottle of wine and enough glasses for everyone, and there was a sizable chunk of my favorite people on earth lit by the setting sun and sipping wine and laughing and why yes, yes I did cry.
(Photos by Mrs. Pants.)
Without these people – and their insane generosity – in my life, there is no way in hell I would be the person I am today. Time and time again, they give more than they get, without a second thought, and without asking for anything in return.
That goes for Mr. Pants, whom I’ve known for longer than I haven’t known him, and who gave me a place to live and who gives me cameras and who reads my mind and who will always, always pour the wine in the bigger glass. And he brought Mrs. Pants into our lives, with her grace and her kindness and her gift of recognizing the beauty in everything and everyone.
It also goes for the Gay Mafia; I am frozen to think of what my experience in Rome would have been like if I had not met Marco, and if Marco had not let me into his world of fantastic, hilarious, talented men (and women!). Giovanni once called out to me, in English, “The Gay Mafia will always protect you!” and never a truer word was spoken.
And it also goes for Mel, who, although my newest friend, has no less given me so much already – and I’m not just talking about her driving skills. With our hours-long phone calls and scarily similar world views, she has single-handedly made me feel connected to a world that at times I feel so depressingly far from.
So the fact that I could give these people the gift of a few days in this small corner of heaven is the absolute least I could do, and oh how my heart sang now that, after so long and so much anticipation and hope and fear and anxiety and more hope, here we all were together, with nothing to do but relax, enjoy and be at peace with each other in the moment.