Francesca and The Great Wide Open

When I lived in Italy, I had a lovely professor(a) named Francesca. She was the second Italian professor I had in college, and she was incredible. She was about five feet tall, gorgeous, arms decorated with random tatoos, long, wavy black hair. She was young, probably 27 or 28, but she had two gorgeous kids and the most incredible accent I’d ever heard. She’d been born and raised in Florence, but when she was in her late teens, she met an American boy, studying in her city. After three days together, travelling across Italy via train, he asked her to marry him. And she said yes.

Professore Mario

Her family thought she was insane, but she packed up and moved to America. Lawrence, Kansas, to be specific, where her young husband was studying at the University. She became an Italian teacher by chance, and then began teaching at KU. She was always kind, never scolded and made the language so much fun to learn. She encouraged us to immerse ourselves in it, even hosting random nights out at local college bars, where we were only allowed to speak in Italian.

Every year she would travel, with her young children, back to Florence with a group of KU students who were studying abroad. The program was based in her hometown and she was able to see her family while she was there. It was the best of both worlds, she kept her job, her trips home were paid for, and her kids got to really “be” Italian for a good amount of time each year. It broke my heart, when during a drunken night out on the town, surrounded with the intense history of the city, she confessed that her marriage was on the rocks, and she was preparing for divorce.

Professora Francesca

I remember being so sad. Such a lovely love story, over, just like that. I asked her what she was planning to do about her living situation. Would she move home, to Florence, or stay in Lawrence with her children? She answered without hesitation, she would stay in Kansas. When I asked why (Somewhat rudely, but really? Lawrence, Kansas over Florence, Italy?), she just said, “Well, I remember my first day in Kansas. I remember looking up, and thinking I had never seen skies as beautiful as that. And I knew it was my home. No matter how often I come back, I think of that sky, and I know where I belong.”


Every spring, when the grey-ness of winter fades and blue lights up the sky again, I think about Francesca. She’s right, you know. The skies here are more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen. And no matter where my life may take me, I’ll always know where my home is.

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2 replies
  1. KT
    KT says:

    This brought tears to my eyes Megan. *People* who want to get up and leave, because other places are “better,” I shake my head and say oh yea, prove it. Love the picture of the Kansas sky. Proven.

    (yea, I know I talk about leaving…but, this post brings me back in check of all that we really have here)

  2. T
    T says:

    This makes so much sense to me. I am going to be selfish. When I moved to NYC it felt like home more than any places I had ever lived. The one thing that made me unsure of this new home was I could not see the starts. I still can’t. I just did not know how I could be grounded if I could not see the stars. I miss the Kansas skies…I miss the stars. NYC is mostly home…maybe stars are for vacations.


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