A Good Home

Cynthia Reyes — the Crazy One

My husband drives me to the Toronto airport for my interview. Pass it, and I’ll be granted a NEXUS card, which speeds up passage through the Canada-US border.

Never mind the fact that I haven’t travelled anywhere in many years. I have hopes; many beloved family members live in the US. 

The two officers — one Canadian, one American — want to make sure I’m really the Cynthia Reyes I claim to be.

I start to giggle.  Then stop, feeling alarmed.

Cynthia Reyes is a disreputable name.

~~

I’m remembering the time I discovered my namesakes on the internet. 

There was the woman who had a flat tire and asked a passing cop for help, forgetting she had a huge bag of marijuana in the car trunk. 

“Even you wouldn’t be that crazy”, my family said.  Leaving me wondering: do you mean that I wouldn’t flag down the cop, or that I wouldn’t have a bag of marijuana with me?

But I digress.

​Here’s another:  “Cynthia Reyes, 41, of New York was arrested and charged with third and sixth degree larceny on Jan. 27.  Reyes’s bond was set at $5,000 and is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 9.”

Oh dear. 

~~

I now understand how people feel when they have to prove they’re not drunk. Or insane. 

“Well,” I tell the NEXUS officers, “there IS a Cynthia Reyes who is an author too, you know; she lives in the US.  And another one is a paediatrician.” 

I puff my chest out, warmed by the halo effect of being able to cite reputable namesakes.

The whole interview somehow goes downhill from there. They have moved on with their questions, but I am still stuck with wanting to defend the name Cynthia Reyes. So I mis-answer their queries, supplying replies they didn’t seek or ones they requested two questions ago.

The woman officer regards me in disbelief, the man in bewildered amusement. As in: “Yes, we have a live one here, Mildred.”

My poor husband, watching from a short distance, doesn’t know if he should step in and help or let me try to swim to the surface on my own.

~~

As I valiantly continue to screw up the interview, the officers still staring, I start to laugh.

They start to laugh. We are all laughing now.

I wipe my eyes.

It’s fingerprint-time. I must stand a distance from the counter, positioning both sets of fingers on their hightech thingamijiggy. But without my cane, I start to fall over.  The quick-thinking officer stops me, does something with the equipment, and I prop myself up against the counter. It works.

~~

Despite my obvious insanity, the officer now seems to be telling me I’ll be granted a NEXUS card.  

Huh?

He reads a list of things I must do when I travel.

“Slow down, slow down,” I say, still not believing. “I must make notes.” 

If he’s rolling his eyes, he hides it well.

~~

“She is special,” my family would have told the officers. It’s how they explain my strange answers to often simple questions — the way the words come out, or simply the way I see the world.

Point is: You never want to interview me. About anything. 

 

A Good Home, Firenze, Florence, FRa Angelico, Italy, La Primavera, Life Challenges, Lifestyle, Michelangelo's David, S. Africa, Travel Abroad

Days Off in Florence

At certain times of the year, my thoughts turn to Florence. Firenze, one of Italy’s most interesting cities.

In early June, the Florentine sunlight is clear gold,  intoxicatingly warm on the skin.

One wants to stay outdoors forever.

Image thanks to accessitaly.com
Image thanks to accessitaly.com

The first time I visited Florence in early June, I was shocked by the crowds on the streets, in the piazzas, in the galleries.

I’d repeatedly worked in Florence, but always in winter or autumn.  Without the crowds of tourists, I got to know the city in a more intimate way.

Days off in Florence were special, every errand an adventure.  Picking up supplies, posting letters, buying gifts for family at the open-air market,  sitting in a cafe, having a cappucino, or — depending on the hour — a Caprese salad at a favorite trattoria. All seemed to involve a conversation.

I loved visiting Florence’s galleries. The Academmia, where I’d stop and say hello to Michelangelo’s David again, and trying  — again — to not stare at his …. hand.

image via wikipedia
image via wikipedia

I’d go to see Fra Angelico’s exquisite paintings.  Every time I visited Florence, I spent time with the paintings of this Renaissance artist-friar (once described as “a rare and perfect talent”) and visited the San Marco priory where he’d lived.

Fra Angelico's "Annunciation"
Fra Angelico’s “Annunciation” – image via wiki paintings

I also loved sitting quietly in the Uffizi gallery…

Image via Uffizi.org
Image via Uffizi.org

…getting lost in La Primavera. And marveling at Boticelli’s talent and skill. His beautifully imagined rendition of Spring, the wealth of detail, and — unusual for the era — the way he managed to create the look of transparent clothing.

Boticelli's "La Primavera"
Boticelli’s “La Primavera” at the Uffizi

And always, I’d stroll over to my favorite dress shop, a short walk from Florence’s famous Il Duomo cathedral.

Going into that shop was a bit like coming home. The proprietor would recognize me immediately with warm kisses on both cheeks and loud cries of welcome.

“Come stai? she’d ask.

“Bene, grazie.” I’d reply, smiling. “Come stai?”

A smile, a “bene, bene”. Then an elegant shrug, and remarks about doing business in Italy these days, what with the state of the government.

And then came the really important stuff: swapping news about our families.

“And – you remember my niece?” I’d nod yes, though I’d only heard about this beloved niece, never met her.

“Did I tell you what happened to her?  No? Well….”  As if we had seen each other just yesterday, instead of months earlier.

Between my trying on different outfits, her serving other customers,  my looking at myself in the mirror and frowning, her saying: “No, no, that’s too big! Try this one instead!”

Or: “There, there... Bella! Molto bella….”

Around and between all that, the latest chapter of her family saga would unfold.

An hour later, I’d leave with my purchases and — always — a head full of family gossip.

And sometimes, the thought:

“Home” is also where they know you, where they’re glad to see you.

Dedicated to my favorite shopkeeper in Florence, with thanks for making me feel at home in a city not my own. Years later, I wonder if you’re still there, and I wonder how you and your family are doing.