Fifteen years ago, I was on my way to Rome.
But this story started much earlier—when I was nine years old and in the fourth grade of Our Lady of Lourdes School in Paterson, New Jersey. That was the year we began studying ancient history and learned for the first time the difference between BC and AD. I was transfixed by the notion of the long flow of time. I gazed out the window and wondered. It was 1950. In fifty years the digit that began the year would change from a “1” to a “2.” How momentous! Could it be that I would be alive when such an enormous thing happened? If I lived that long, I would be about to turn fifty-nine. My grandmother was nearly that old. It could happen; I might live to see the year 2000.
As time went on, life brought a lot of other things to think about. But every once in a while, the notion came to me again, mostly when another year ended.
|Page one of the original communiqué.|
Then, as we approached the New Year of 1995, I decided it was time to start planning a really great party. David agreed. That following January, I sent out a questionnaire to my entire Christmas card list. It suggested a few possible venues. Italy was one of them. Lots of people liked the idea of the party. A few suggested we all go hiking somewhere far from civilization, not one of my choices. A number thought it would have to be a tropical place. My suggestion that it be somewhere beautiful and Italian got the most votes.
|Rosanne and me during the week in Rome|
Best of all, that letter drew a very enthusiastic response from my dear friend Rosanne Martorella. “Rome,” she said. “Nowhere but the Eternal City will do.” And she wanted to share the work. It became our joint project over the next five years. The tasks came in dribs and drabs at first. Rounding up interested people. Looking at possibilities. But then the to-do lists intensified. Through our contacts in Italy, we were able to reserve the Palazzo Lancelotti, a gorgeous private residence, aristocratic and perfectly situated between the Piazza Navona and Ponte S. Angelo.
|The Piano Nobile of the Palazzo Lancellotti. The walls are painted to look this way.|
Soon we were up to our necks in elaborate budgets, travel arrangements, opening Italian bank accounts, corresponding with all the potential guests. In the end, 104 people signed up and attended, almost all Americans, but some English, French, and Italian friends as well. Many of them also joined in a week of activities arranged by a friend who was a travel agent. It included a swanky hotel stay, an audience with the Pope, lots of sight-seeing, and delicious meals.
Here is how we all looked on the big night:
|The souvenir program and menu|
|The Clark/King/Steen contingent.|
|The food was spectacular.|
|Lots of dancing to a band of Sicilian musicians who could play anything!|
|Two of my schoolmates were among the guests.|
|HAPPY NEW MILLENNIUM!|
|This is my favorite photo of the event. My granddaughter Emma was 17 months old.|
I love to imagine her thoughts when she looks at this image in the years to come.
Some events have lifetime significance. This one occupied my imagination for decades before it happened. The realization of that dream stands out for me and always will.
Annamaria - the Monday before 2015. Happy New Year!