CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith and Life for the Years of Winter…
THE DEFINITION OF “ADVENTURE” [W, 3-7-18]
And there sat “the Addams family.” That was not their real name, but they actually looked like that spooky TV family, tall slender parents with big eyes, who said very little, and several children with big eyes, staring at everyone, saying nothing at all.
We might normally have tried to make friends with them. We like off-beat, quirky people. We have often adopted the older, single person in those circumstances, the one without a natural group for eating or sight-seeing. That person usually became a life-long friend, even at great distance. So it was with Will Ormond, Professor of New Testament and Homiletics at Decatur Theological Seminary in Atlanta. So we did not have time for the Addams family that summer in Rome. Also, they were just a bit unsettling and never did anything right.
It was get-away day from The American Summer Institute in Rome, at the Faculta Waldensa, the only Protestant seminary in Rome, maybe in all of Italy. Up to that point we had done almost everything together, 50 or so Americans, mostly Presbyterian since the ASI was sort of an adjunct of Princeton Theological Seminary, studying theology and art and history in “the eternal city.” Now, though, we were all on our own, going different places, some taking the train to other cities for more study and sight-seeing, others leaving at various times to catch a flight, at the big new DaVinci airport. The Addams family leaving for who-knew-where.
No DaVinci for Helen and me. We had flown over on a charter flight and were scheduled to go back the same way. I can’t quite remember what “charter flight” meant in those days. Evidence indicates it meant they waited until the pilots were drunk, and then herded people on until there was no possibility of even the most rudimentary comfort, and then took off in a cloud of strange-smelling fumes. We had to depart for the U.S. from the forgotten and neglected Ciampino Airport, used only by charters and drug smugglers.
It had been a delightful sojourn in Italy, but usually we just had to get on a bus and somebody else figured out how to reach the destination. When we were on our own, we got on trains going the wrong way.
Now we had to catch a bus to Ciampino. With our rudimentary—at best—Italian, we could find no one in Rome who had ever heard of it or knew how to get to it. Except an American girl, traveling with her boyfriend. Being students, they were traveling cheap, and were also going to Ciampino to catch a charter.
She claimed to be fluent in Italian. So when she had a conversation with the bus driver, and she understood him to say that this was the bus to Ciampino, we got on. We rode quite a long while. The driver pushed us at a place with a sign that said Ciampino. I guess it was a town, but it was really just a junk yard. There was nothing else around. Our student friend’s fluency apparently did not extend to bus drivers.
We waited. Nothing happened. We had no idea where we were. Finally a man in a tiny car stopped. His young son was in the passenger seat. The back seat of the car, which doubled as the trunk, was totally full of empty bottles. They were bringing them to the junk yard to for refunds.
The man talked with our student. He said, “That damned bus driver does that all the time. He thinks it’s funny. Wait here.” He drove home, unloaded his son and all his bottles, [If he had done the deposit first, we would have been late for our planes], and returned for us. He put me and the boyfriend into the back, then loaded all the luggage—and I mean ALL—on top of us—and I mean ON TOP OF US because there wasn’t any place else—got Helen and the student into the passenger seat together, and off we went to the airport.
When we got to Ciampino, we tried to pay the man. He insisted that we not do so, that he was just being a good neighbor. We finally pressed some money onto him, for which I think he was actually hoping, but he did the right thing, and so did we.
And there sat the Addams family. The misfits, who never did anything right. They had left Faculta Waldensa at the same time we had. They got to the destination before we did. We have no idea how. We should have followed them, except…
…poor weird people—they had no adventure at all. As our grandson once told his mother, “If nothing goes wrong, it’s not an adventure.”
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