It is about time for this pebble to go home!

September 15, 2011

I was busy packing my bags, hurrying about at the last minute. To make things worse, there was a power failure and the upstairs was hot and muggy that afternoon. It was late October and here in Southern California it felt just like mid August.We still had laundry to do, but nothing worked in the house. Could it get worse than this? I do not think so…

The plane leaves tomorrow morning and there is plenty of organizing still to be done. In a couple of hours it will be dark and, with no electricity, it will be quite an adventure to get this packing done.Some people just sweat. Not me. It pours out of me like a fountain. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. Little puddles are forming all around me. Where is the AC/DC converter? “Naaanc…!!!” I yell “Where did you put it?” It is never where I left it. My wife has a way of moving my stuff around that drives me crazy. “I think it’s in the garage in one of the old boxes,” she called back. I silently count to ten, hoping it will help calm me down. You would think thatafter twentysix years of being together I would have this routine down. Well, apparently not.

I do not know about you, but my garage is where old things go to hide. Once you put something in a boxthere, good luck finding it again when you need it. Half insane from the heat, I stood in the middle of thegarage pulling stuff from the shelves, surrounded by the discarded contents, rummaging into half emptyboxes, driving myself crazy.

Then it happened. I recognized it right away. Tucked deep in one of the corners of the cardboard box, there wasa small tin box. Inside a little pebble rattled free.Twenty-Six years ago, Nanci and I went to Rome together for the first time. I remember standing in front of theGrand Hotel (now the St. Regis Grand). We were staying then at a little pensione, not too far away. We ended upin front of the Grand Hotel by accident, on our way to Piazza Navona. I was just out of school and had no job, so I had taken a few weeks to travel with Nanci around Italy.

The Grand Hotel was so beautiful—I had to go in and see it. The lobby was an astonishing piece of work, plush and elegant. Colorful hand-painted murals surrounded walls of mirrors that shimmered with light. It all looked so elegant, so expensive—so far out of my reach.

As we walked out of the lobby, I told Nanci right then and there, “One day you and I will stay in this hotel.We will be married and we will be rich.” Then we laughed as all lovers do when dreaming of something fantastic, which almost never comes true. But I was not kidding. I meant what I said.

In Sicily we have a tradition: When you make a promise to yourself—one that you truly wish to keep—take a memento with you, a little souvenir to remind you of it forever. I bent down and picked up a pebble, placing it inside an empty tin of mints. I slipped it into my pocket.It was a special amulet that, like many good intentions, was put away and then forgotten, stashed deep in this cardboard box, eventually resurfacing inside my garage.

I sat alone in my garage, hot, sweaty, lost in thought, and surrounded by a mess of boxes and forgotten things. I was, I think, the perfect picture of a mad man. It was in this less than ideal setting that I pondered how much change I have seen in my own life in the past twenty-six years.

A few weeks later, a black limousine pulled up to the curb to drop us off. My wife looked out the window and then back at me—amazed and surprised. There it stood in all of its beauty, actually even more beautiful than I remembered it: Rome’s St. Regis Grand Hotel. The bellhops came around to help us out of the car and load our bags on the cart. “May we escort you to the front desk, sir?” a young man in uniform asked.“Just a moment,” I replied.

My hand reached inside my vest and I pulled out an old, dented tin box. My fingers opened it slowly. I carefully grasped the little pebble inside and then held it high for all to see. “It’s about time for this pebble to go home,” I said. I knelt down and placed the pebble on the ground in front of the Grand Hotel.

The limo driver and the small army of bellhops looked at me quizically. My wife and I stared into each other’s eyes for just a moment. We both knew what it meant. We walked slowly toward the lobby, holding hands, as if coming home.

It is very important to keep one’s promises, especially the ones we make to ourselves. As for being rich,…..well, my wife loves me, my cats, too. I have a great family and plenty of friends. I am rich….. enough.

©2013 Nick Stellino Productions