At home, Jessica sets the New York City book off to one side. “We must decide about Italy first,” she says, showing an excellent grasp of priority setting, and she opens the first book. A moment later, she announces, “There is a lot of Italy.”
“Yes,” I agree. “It’s a big country. So maybe we should –”
“This is going to be wonderful.” She is flipping pages and peering at pictures.
“So I think the best thing to do,” I try again, thinking that the planning could go on for three years if I work it right, “is to –”
“There is a castle,” she announces in thrilled tones. “There is a castle where you can spend the night. Like a hotel.” Immediately I grasp that she is imagining herself as Princess Jessica in a castle, and also that I will be staying in a castle when we go to Italy.
“Really?” I say, wondering how many books I’m going to have to ghostwrite this year to afford the trip.
She points to the picture. “And they have a feast! On New Year’s Eve!” Life was simpler when she couldn’t read.
“Wow,” I say. That won’t cost a billion dollars.
She flips to the beginning of the chapter and looks at the title. “Verona,” she says. “The castle is near Verona.”
“Verona?” I say. “Shakespeare’s Verona? The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Romeo and Juliet. Verona.” I’m thinking that could be very cool.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Maybe if you would read something besides Harry Potter.”
“What’s near Verona?” I say, and she turns to the fold-out map.
“Venice? OMG, we’re going to Venice. We are totally going to Venice.” I have stopped worrying about the Royal Thai Police.
Now she is looking at the individual chapters. “Venice is good,” she says. “It’s on the water. There will be boats.”
Jessica is all about modes of transportation. She is going to love Europe. For the first time, I can actually imagine her there, imagine us there.
She studies a page, turns it.
“What was that?”
“Not interested in Florence?”
“It’s all museums.”
“You do realize that we will be looking at art and architecture,” I say. “It’s Italy. It’s all art and architecture.”
“We are going to places,” she says. “Like the castle. And Venice, with boats.”
I spend a moment puzzling this out. “You want to be in Italy, not just look at it.”
“Well, we have to go to Rome and look at things, okay? Because that’s important to me. I can’t go to Italy and not see the Coliseum. And the Spanish Steps. And –”
“You can have one day to look at things in Rome.”
“And what are we going to do the other days?”
“Learn to cook. And go to the Christmas market.”
That sounds fairly awesome, in fact.
“Verona, Venice, and Rome,” I say. “That’s about as much as I’ll be able to afford, darlin’.”
“That will be good,” she says. “Have we got the airplane tickets yet?”
I look at the clock. She has planned our trip to Italy in ten minutes. “How about it we think about –”
I take a deep breath. “All right,” I say. “Let’s book them now.”