A few weeks ago, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary (or as my little sister said, our 100th), and I just have had so many good thoughts and positive memories that instead of just one day, it’s kind of turned into Anniversary Month.
Our official celebration was going to Pierce Point Ranch and then on the actual day, we had a delicious dinner while our kids slept soundly in their rooms. It was nice but let’s be honest: it will forever be hard for any anniversary to ever top our 5th.
We spent our fifth wedding anniversary in good old Cinque Terre, Italy.
This was two years ago now and I’ve had a baby since then so the trip should be a bit of a blur but it’s not. I’ve always had a good memory and my brain, my heart, and my soul all have a special place reserved for this memory.
The lead up to this anniversary were the six months we lived in Europe for Matthew’s job. They were some of the best and hardest months of my life at that point and we wanted to end the experience with a big trip. Matthew saved up some vacation time so that we could travel through Italy, with his parents joining us. We went to Rome and Florence first (and one day I will blog about those trips, I promise), before getting to our final destination. Vibrant, relaxed, unbelievably beautiful Cinque Terre.
The term “bittersweet” was created for the moment we said goodbye to Ella– it was my first time leaving her and even though we had been traveling for months, we were still thousands of miles outside of our comfort zone. All together, we walked through the alleys to the small apartment she and Matthew’s parents would be staying in, happy to see they wouldn’t even be a thousand steps from our hotel. And honestly, after several days of lugging her and the million and one things you need to travel with a baby, the thought of walking freely and without looking for stroller access and without a bedtime to observe was the greatest anniversary gift imaginable. The sweet soon took over the bitter.
Cinque Terre is actually made up of five small towns and we stayed in Monterosso in a beautiful hotel right by the beach. To be honest, it’s so small that pretty much everything is right by the beach. The first night we tried calamari, watched the waves crash against rock bridges, and stayed out late like two carefree adults. Does anyone else ever feel like some kind of double agent when they’re out without their kids? I always think to myself, “None of these people know I have a daughter! They have no idea that my soul is actually centuries old because of the stress of parenting!”
Oh, just me? Cool cool cool.
The next day was the big day, our anniversary, and it was split up into two portions. The Matthew portion, where we would hike from our town to Vernazza, the next one over. And then there was my portion, where we would go to the beach and eat gelato and pasta . You could also call this the better portion. All summer I’d been imagining submerging my head in the cold ocean water– I guess Matthew imagined wearing ourselves out on crooked and steep climbs. To each his own, I guess!
In the surprise of the century, hiking wasn’t terrible and it meant a lot to Matthew. He loves outdoorsy things and I have never really seen the point of them. There’s nothing on a hike that Google Images can’t show me. But it was nice to have him help me through the difficult parts and just talk and see beautiful views of the ocean.
And Vernazza was beautiful, more colorful buildings and the location of my precious beach. I was a little scared walking on the slippery rocks to get into deeper water but like I said, I had been waiting all summer for this. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
We spent the rest of the day eating and going to the other towns (by train, this time) and exploring other beaches. And eating more gelato. Carefree.
After a full day, we were both tired and went back to the hotel to recuperate. But something felt a little off with me. The hike from Monterosso to Vernazza is the easiest trail in Cinque Terre and yeah, I’m not outdoorsy, but it should not have been as hard for me as it was.
So I did what anyone would do and I took a pregnancy test.
I’d had suspicions a few months before this trip that maybe I was pregnant. So I went to Coop, the Swiss grocery store, and purchased a box. Two came in each one. I took it as soon as I got home and it was negative. I was a little disappointed but I’m a big believer in God’s timing. So I moved on quite easily, Ella my biggest accomplice in doing so. The suspicion came again, this time just a week or two before we left for Italy. So being the prepared (read: curated) woman that I am, I threw it in my big red suitcase last minute, just in case. I didn’t think about it again until I was washing the Vernazza sand out of my hair. So before heading out to our anniversary dinner, I decided to just check.
And two lines appeared.
Now, being the occasionally unprepared (read: less than curated) woman that I am, I didn’t bring the box with me so I didn’t know what those lines meant. I couldn’t remember! But after a quick search on google.it, I had my answer.
I had already given Matthew his gift (a leather jacket we picked out in Florence) and he had specifically told me I didn’t need to give him anything else just so he would have something to open on the actual day (that’s how much I love giving gifts– people have to tell me to stop). So when I told him I had something else for him, he kind of rolled his eyes at first but I’ll never forget his incredulity turning to surprise and then joy. He knew what the two lines meant right away.
With that amazing news, we walked to our beautiful seaside restaurant and ate good food and talked about the future. Baby names came up once or twice. We ended the night sitting by the ocean, watching a pink and blue sunset, and listening to an amazing guitarist play melodic covers of The Beatles and Louis Armstrong. It was one of those moments that didn’t feel real, like it was too beautiful to be lived. Like it was happening and becoming a memory all at once. How did a random girl from Baltimore end up in this exact spot on this exact perfect night? I’ll never know.
There was nothing bittersweet about collecting Ella the next day, our foray into carefreeness had lasted long enough. We wanted our cares back. We told her about the baby in Mama’s tummy which she didn’t react to (maybe one day I’ll post that hilariously disappointing video) and before we knew it, we were on our way back to Switzerland and a different kind of dream.
I look back on that trip so fondly not just because it was fun and beautiful but because it felt like all of the stars aligned for us to celebrate this milestone in the most special way. God’s timing, indeed. Because now here we are. That guitarist’s CD is in our car, pulled out for long drives and trips down memory lane. That toddler is now a stunning little girl and that pregnancy test is now my precious baby boy. We were 5 years in but that’s where a new phase for our family began. In good old Cinque Terre, Italy.