I took a charter flight to Rome, full of Italians who had been on safari vacations in Tanzania and Kenya. I loved flying over Africa, looking down on the Sahara, a vast expanse of sand with some mysterious geographical features that I couldn’t identify. Then we flew over the Mediterranean. The Kenyan crew spoke no Italian, most of the passengers spoke no English. A steward asked me to make an announcement, in Italian, when we entered Italian airspace over Reggio Calabria. I didn’t speak much Italian at the time, so he had picked the one person on the plane incompetent for the task! Someone else was found to make the announcement, and a cheer went up from all the passengers. We had to circle Rome for a while, which was fun, as Rome has so many monuments that are easily identified from the air.
Enrico was thrilled to have me home safe with him, and the whole family was happy that I was pregnant. I had been a bit worried about this, since Enrico and I were not yet married. I had asked him on the phone how his family reacted when he had called them with the news. “My father was silent for a moment, then said ‘Benissimo!’ My brother said: ‘You just told me a few weeks ago that you’re getting married, now you’re pregnant. What next? You’re getting divorced?’ ”
Enrico’s grandmother was also thrilled at the prospect of her first great-grandchild. At family meals she would insist that I drink a glass of red wine: “It fortifies the blood.”
We worried that the baby might have been affected by the various vaccinations and preventive medicines I had taken for travel in Africa. Enrico found a birth defects hotline in the US which registered statistics and tried to correlate defects with exposure to various substances. They had no data to show any problems with the medicines I’d taken. After Ross was born they called again to see how she was, and were happy to add good news to their database: no defects whatsoever. Long before birth, Ross had already proved that she was robust: if bouncing around in a Land Rover in the Ngorongoro Crater didn’t cause a miscarriage, NOTHING was going to dislodge that baby. But I’m getting ahead of my story.
We spent a pleasant Christmas vacation with Enrico’s family and friends in Rome and other parts of central Italy. As a mother-to-be, I was pampered and spoiled by everybody, a unique experience in my life to date, which I enjoyed very much. (Expectant mothers: Enjoy any pampering you can get, while it lasts: after the baby is born, for the rest of your life, YOU will be expected to take care of EVERYBODY. Time off will be given only for hospital stays.)
In January I went back to Virginia (near DC) and resumed work, assuming that we would stick to our original plan: I would give up my job and move to New Haven (where Enrico was in grad school at Yale) in time for our late-May wedding party.
However, I needed health insurance (like millions of Americans, I did not have any, and the startup company I worked for was too small to offer it). Enrico was on the Yale health plan, and I could be, too, as soon as we were married. So I took a long weekend in mid-January to go to New Haven and get hitched.
We went to City Hall and got the papers, including a form for a required blood test (for syphilis, I believe). We found someplace nearby to do that quickly, while we filled in the marriage license, which had to be witnessed and signed by a Justice of the Peace. We had asked at City Hall where we could find one, and they gave us an address nearby.
The place proved to be the parole office, headed by a little old Italian-American woman of third-generation Amalfitani descent. Her waiting room was filled with rough-looking parolees, and clearly our request to be married was unusual for her. Overcome by sentiment, and fraternal pride at this handsome young Italian man with his glowingly pregnant bride-to-be, she made us promise never to divorce. Her two secretaries were called in as witnesses, all three of them sniffling at the romance of it all.