Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…

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The Italian

She always wanted to be Italian, Dominique’s French cousin. She dreamed about everything Italy since she was a little girl. She loved the language and the people. How did she know? Who tells the heart what to love? Where to fall? Somehow it knows. 

I hadn’t been living in France that long when we went on an Italian excursion.  We saw glorious things. Me for the first time. Drove Italian fast, round round-a-bouts. Monuments, relics, at ever exit. Stood along with the other tourists as they tried to push or hold up the leaning tower. Bello! 

I thought it would be a complete let-down to visit this cousin on our way home. She opened the door. Flowers in hand. Smile on face. A warmth that transcended any language. I barely spoke any French, and certainly no Italian, but somehow, I felt at home. I suppose the heart can recognize another that has found its way.

I have seen extraordinary things. We have returned to other parts of Italy. I have seen the Colosseum. The Pantheon. The Vatican. Civilizations. Empires. Each standing stone, evidence. 

Maybe it all comes down to those who dare to dream. Maybe that’s why I think of her so often. Some might ask what difference does it make? What difference did she make? How can any one heart matter? But I say it is something! Something extraordinary. I can still feel the love in that room. That Italian room. That French heart. The dreams of that little girl floating around the room, filling it with the evidence of risk, of hope, of pure love. 

You can travel the world looking for guarantees. You won’t find them. But you will find examples. Monumental examples of the human experience. Sitting a country away. In my American/French heart, the evidence remains, and oh, how I believe!

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The Italian.

I found the laminated card that my mom kept in her purse. It listed of all my surgeries. She grew tired of remembering and writing them down for insurance purposes, so she typed up a card and handed it to them. There were over twenty. Joint by joint.

She was the first to sign each plaster cast. I don’t know which number surgery we were on, (I suppose I could check the list)…but it was a full length cast on my left leg — she wrote in big blue sharpie — “Nurse Linda.” “Who’s that?” I asked, still in a bit of an anesthetized fog. “Me,” she said proudly, “If I’m going to be playing nurse all the time, I should be able to pick my own name.” I smiled. She struck a pose at the side of my hospital bed. We laughed until I threw up in the plastic bean beside me. She wiped my face with a warm washcloth. “Thank you, Linda.”

She had to use vacation days from work to be with me. She brushed it off, while I apologized. “Nurse Linda doesn’t care. It’s part of her job.” She made everything easier. With just those two words — Nurse LInda — she made even my plaster covered existence lighter. Trips to the hospital became vacation. Vacation from the norm. Vacation from reality. She did, in fact, have the power to heal me.

I had just started this recent painting. I emailed the beginnings to a friend of mine. “Is it a nurse?” she asked. I hadn’t thought about it yet, but of course it was — she was. This beautiful Italian woman appearing on my canvas was healing me. Taking me to a different time, a different place. A vacation for my heart and mind.

My mother’s name would change from time to time as needed. From Linda, she went to Goober, to Sparkle, Little Sister, Gilbert, (and now, she is “The Italian.”) We changed and grew. Adapted. Healed. And most of all, we had FUN — the greatest healer of all, I suppose. And even though none of this may continue, make no mistake about it – it is permanent! A love written in Sharpie. A love laminated on my heart.