Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.

Missing To Me: Day 2 of the April Poetry Challenge


This week has been resurrecting some of the initial sting of loss that I felt when we left Italy in December. There are some obvious triggers: Tyler is back in Milan for work, taking photos of the Duomo, and eating gelato from GROM, and having dinner with old friends whom I deeply miss. His absence, and the knowledge of where he is, has also prompted a few sniffles from the kids bemoaning “my real friends” left back in Milano. Then there was the poignant blog post from a good friend who, this week, is following us in her final departure from our former adopted city, recollecting memories and emotions that had been, for a time, swallowed up by the quotidian tasks that have grown to fill my days here in Jersey.

And then there was a snatch of overheard conversation at the grocery store yesterday. It was just an inexpert effort of the checker to reach out to an Italian-speaking customer, but it struck home, making evident with sudden clarity just how much I am missing the loss of daily exposure to my second tongue.

And so, today’s poetry offering reflects upon that loss.

Missing To Me

The grocery line – a checker salutes a man he clearly knows.

“Mille grazie.” A thanks for bagging milk and bread.

The words flare up inside me like a fire with no smoke,

invisible flame that burns inside my head.


I miss the language of the land I sojourned for three years.

Though, then, I mangled it in daily tasks.

The lilting roll of opera’s tongue seduced my willing ears.

“Will I now always miss it?” my soul asks.


Italians say “mi manca” to express this kind of loss.

The literal translation means “(to) me it’s missing.”

The agency is with the missing object, far across

the sea, while I stand silent,listening, wishing.


I try to keep my effort up, insert familiar phrases,

when speaking to the kids throughout the day.

But missing is the boisterous hum pervading public spaces,

the sound that now just memory can replay.


My heart now knows, I understand a language is much more

than words and grammar structured to give meaning.

This language lives inside the lives of people, at its core.

The life I left behind is what I’m grieving.


I can almost hear the hum of the crowd that waits outside the downtown GROM for spring gelato.

I can almost hear the hum of the crowd that waits outside the downtown GROM for spring gelato.

Author: Serena Gideon Rice

In early 2011 my family moved our home, temporarily, from New Jersey to Milan, Italy. In the process I quit what had been my dream job conducting policy-directed social science research, to focus on my other dream job, raising our two young children. The three-year adventure was exciting, exhausting, disorienting, fulfilling, and countless other contradictions. It also birthed in me a desire to share my reflections on life's joys and challenges with anyone who cares to reflect with me. Now that we have returned to the US I'm finding that the new perspective I gained in Europe has come with me, and gives me a whole new way of interacting with my home. There's still so much to learn and share! I hope you'll share the journey, and add your own lessons to my daily education.

2 thoughts on “Missing To Me: Day 2 of the April Poetry Challenge

  1. Dearest Serena, I miss GROM too! Even though my time there was much briefer than yours. And I miss Europe so….Europe lives in me in a way that America no longer does, actually. My heart is there. My spirit is there. Now if only the body…maybe soon. For sure by 2015 I hope. My thoughts and feelings are with you and yours, my friend. Hope it isn’t long till we see each other again. Things have been intense with needy relatives and continue so. I may be off to FL shortly to visit 92 year old Auntie for possibly the last time… But I hope we will connect soon…I hold you always close and look forward to seeing the children too. Warmly, Sally Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2014 10:05:08 +0000 To:

    • Oh, sweet friend. I know you understand. It’s possible to taste loss without regretting the cause, especially when it tastes as sweet as fresh, natural gelato! I hope to see you soon as well.

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