The Princess of Rome

One day in Uganda I was picking up our daughter from a play date and wanted to take her picture with her friends. There were two little girls, one her age and the other a few years older, around 6. In the pictures, our girl and the friend her age are smiling and goofing and completely uninhibited, whereas the older girl stood ridged and uncomfortably self-aware. It was astounding to this new mother that yes, it all changes when self-consciousness sets in, when innocence is replaced by awareness. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a big moment and one I hoped would stay away as long as it could, so that our daughter could enjoy the bliss of ‘just being’ a little while longer.

I mentioned in an earlier post about moving to Rome and our wondering how a mixed family would be received and how it’s been nothing but welcoming. But it’s been so much more than that. You see, we came to a place where our daughter is a minority. In Uganda, she swam in a sea of sameness and it was mommy and daddy that were different. But here she would stand out, and I was so worried when we came that the self-consciousness moment would be forced upon her too soon. But wonderfully,  the complete opposite happened. Because Italians love life, and they LOVE children, and since it’s a live-out-loud culture, they make that known everywhere you go.

So yes, she stands out, but for all the right reasons.

For our daughter has become the princess of Rome. We cannot walk down the street nor go into a shop without someone pinching her cheeks, kissing her head, rubbing her hair, and always, always telling her she is beautiful. At a time in her life when her difference could have made her shrink, the Italians have let her stay young and wild and free.

I think of anywhere else in the world we could have gone: back to NY, where inappropriate questions (which we sometimes got when there on holiday) and/or indifference might have shaped her, or an area not welcoming to diversity which could have molded her, where we would have had to shield her, armor her.

But we came to Rome, where there are no questions, no looks, no comments, just a family with a really cute kid and people who like to celebrate that. I can’t believe how lucky we got by winding up here and I will forever love Rome for this priceless gift that they have given our child.

13 thoughts on “The Princess of Rome

  1. Sabrina,
    I was directed to your blog by Joshua Malina, who I occasionally talk to through Twitter or email. I was very glad he pointed me here as I have always loved your work, partcularly on Sports Night and I could never understand why you weren’t acting anymore. Mystery solved. I just wanted to tell you that your blog is very moving and well written.

    My wife loves to travel and has spent weeks at a time in Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Mali and Morocco. I’ve never been able to understand the appeal and draw of Africa. It’s something she’s always had. She ocassionally mentions the idea of moving there someday. I wonder if you would be willing to talk to me (via email) about how someone who was clearly as skeptical as I am managed to adjust to that kind of life.

    Keep writing and I’ll keep reading,
    David

  2. I cannot believe that this blog existed long before @JoshuaMalina pointed it out in Twitterverse. What a gem! Sabrina, you are lovely, talented actress (that I’ve believed for years!), as well as — now I’ve discovered — a gifted writer! I know I’ll be back to read and catch-up… again and again! In the meantime, only the warmest wishes to you and your little family.

  3. I find your experience really interesting compared to mine. I am Italian and grew up in Rome though I now live in Tanzania. My two children are mixed race. Most people in Rome are nice to us distributing candies to the children etc but I often get insensitive and plain rude questions:

    Where did you get them from? is the most common
    Oh I thought you adopted them from the Caribbean
    Are they brother and sister?
    And the worst related to my daughter: “Che bella negretta” literally translated as what a pretty little negress!!!

    And people regularly stop to take pictures of them in town as if they were a tourist attraction, without even asking if its ok, drives me crazy.

    I wonder if Italians find it easier to relate to mixed race families that are not Italian…

    1. I am deeply saddened to hear of your experience. Thank you so much for sharing your story and wow, I will never understand people’s rudeness (to put it nicely). Perhaps you are right, the fact the we are outsiders makes the difference, but it shouldn’t. I hope it’s better in Tanzania. And that you broke some of those cameras!

  4. YES! you are soooooo rigtht! I did love this entry! this is what i was talking about!
    Lots of love to the italian princess!!!

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