Rachel is Annie’s youngest aunt. Mike’s youngest sister. She’s also spent the most time with Annie out of all of her thirteen aunts and uncles. We were so blessed to have Rachel studying here last Spring. She lived for four months just across the courtyard and we saw her everyday she wasn’t traveling outside of Rome. We got very used to having her around. And now that a new group of students is here her absence seems greater than it did when she left last May.
Annie loved having her around. It was amazing to watch the two of them interact everyday for almost four months straight. Makes me feel a little more guilty than I already do for having her so far from her amazing family. Rachel we love and miss you everyday. We are forever grateful for the time we got to have you here with us. Thanks for your post!
It has taken me a long time to write this blog post for Colleen. Practically ever since I left Rome, I have been afraid to confront the feelings I have about my sweet niece. I am so unbelievably jealous of the students at the John Felice Rome Center right now who are watching my niece grow and develop from one day to the next. Part of me thinks it’s not fair; that Annie’s “real” aunts and uncles should be the only ones who get to spend time with her, but then I remember what I learned during my semester abroad: Annie is everyone’s niece.
The JFRC is a family, and Mike, Colleen and Annie are the epicenter of that family. As students, everyone is invited to love Annie, to hold her, to play with her, to sing to her, and to volunteer to babysit her so Mike and Colleen can have one of their rare dates. Sure, I was actually related to Annie by blood, but every one of my classmates at the Rome Center was related to Annie by love.
When I think of my niece Annie, I immediately think of two things. The first is the wonderful time we were able to spend together; the second thing Annie makes me think of is the song “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns ‘N Roses. The first one is pretty obvious, but if you look at the lyrics of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” I think you will all agree that certain parts of the song were written for my gorgeous niece. She’s got a smile it seems to me/ Reminds me of childhood memories/ Where everything was fresh as the bright blue sky/ Now and then when I see her face/ She takes me away to that special place/ And if I’d stare too long/ I’d probably break down and cry/ Oh sweet child o’ mine.
When I returned home from my semester abroad, I had a hard time adjusting to life, not because I was a jobless college grad with zero access to decent espresso, but because I had absolutely no idea how to live without Annie. Every night I would go on Facebook, look at the pictures Colleen, my friends or I had posted of Annie, and “break down and cry.” I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I spent many a summer night weeping alone at my computer.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to have lived in Rome, I don’t know if life ever really “goes back to normal.” For those of us who are fortunate enough to have lived in Rome with Annie, I KNOW life never “goes back to normal.” I can still get teary eyed when I look at pictures of Annie, and I am definitely still prone to fits of jealousy when I see current JFRC students with my niece in their arms. When it all just seems like too much I put on “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and remember that I know what it’s like to see Annie every day, to have her reach out for me to hold her, to have her recognize my face and smile at me because I’m me. Those are feelings that no amount of sadness or jealousy can take away from me.