Lessons from Italy learned in Mexico

I found myself in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.

I was situated in a beach chair . . . the Caribbean behind me, a pool to my right.

The temperature was a perfect 85 degrees, the wind was just a breeze.

Next to me was a sleeping husband who had earlier adjusted the umbrella, should my pale Nebraska winter skin start to fry.

Music with Spanish lyrics played while I tapped my foot to the beat.

All around me, I heard languages and accents I decided were from Massachusetts, North Dakota, the Midwest, the Deep South, Mexico, Germany . . .

And then I heard a dialect I wasn’t as familiar with. It took a while before I realized it was Italian.

As I lay on my beach chair, I watched two women walk in our direction.

They captivated everyone around them.

They graciously stopped for photos and conversations with those who didn’t even speak their language.

They made their way to the chairs right in front of me.

Were they celebrities? I didn’t know.

Were they special? I can give that an affirmative.

They were probably in their late sixties, early seventies as best I could determine.

They were hard to miss. Why? They were absolute identical twins. Even after seven decades, they still looked exactly alike.

They wore the same clothes . . . brightly colored sarongs over orange bikinis.

They carried the same bags . . . flashy silver clutches which held the same brands of sunblock and the same colors of lip gloss.

Both were wearing the same pair of high wedge sandals adorned with blinged out butterflies over the toes.

Both were bangled with diamond earrings that highlighted their identical dyed blond hair which had been swept up in a glamorous style.

They moved gracefully and slowly . . . they hadn’t a care in the world.

Me being me, which is an insatiable people watcher, I had to stare. I couldn’t help myself. They were just so fascinating.

They finished each other’s sentences.

If spoken to, they literally answered in sync using the exact same words at the exact same time.

Our pool-side waiter/bartender, Fortunado, frequented the ladies’ location as they were obviously quite fond of Mojitos . . . with extra limes.

That day, I simply observed these women who were so accustomed to each other that one would hand a tissue to the other before she sneezed.

The next day, we all found ourselves in the same places for a leisurely regimen of sun, sand, spirits and sleep.

As I settled in for a relaxing day, I was shocked when I realized the women were gesturing for me to “Vieni qui,” (aka “come here,” I learned later). I worried they noticed I had been watching them like a weird person.

So I got up from my chair to see what these intriguing people wanted of me.

Although we spoke different languages, it was determined they wanted me to take a picture of them . . . of course, I obliged.

Then they wanted me to shoot them one at a time so they would each have a solo portrait. In my head, I laughed that I could just take one photo of one person . . . because they probably couldn’t have determined who was who either.

And that’s when our little friendship began.

Over the course of the next few days, we had conversations as we ran into each other at breakfast . . . or sat next to each other by the pool . . . or took photos to remember our respective vacations.

Also during that time, I became a pupil of these twin teachers who wanted to make sure I knew their philosophies on life.

They said their home in Italy is the place to be because people aren’t so busy, “so frantic, so worried” . . . “not like in your America which is nice but so fussy” . . . they relayed in broken English.

They were youthful despite their years “because women should care how they age . . . put face cream on like you are painting a wall,” they advised. “And then don’t just stop at your face,” gesturing to their flawless necks and legs.

“And a little surgery should never bring a frown,” one said, laughing, while the other made gestures toward her forehead indicating she has a fondness for Botox.

“If you can drink Mojitos at 8 a.m., then drink Mojitos at 8 a.m.,” one directed, while the other indicated that an extra shot of rum is imperative.

“And the more pieces of lime, the better,” one said, as she struggled to insert a straw into a glass of what appeared to be one part lime wedges and one part rum.

“Fortunado,” the other exclaimed, waving her perfectly manicured hand in the air. “More limes, per favore.”

Despite their Mojito marathon all day, they would return in the evenings for dinner, looking remarkably fresh and sober. I was told that a healthy “vitamin cocktail” did the trick. Unfortunately, I never learned the recipe.

They would glide about the dining venue, wearing glamorous, one-shouldered dresses in hues matching the sea. With a gold clutch purse in one hand and a glass of champagne in the other, they would stop at tables to say hello to their fellow vacationers.

It was on one of those evenings, after they asked my husband to take their photos in a variety of settings, that they shared more wisdom.

While they congratulated us on being married for many years, they also marveled at the fact such longevity can be achieved.

Both had been married multiple times, I was told.

“Ah men . . . oh they are good for about five years and then it’s time to fly like a bird,” they said with laughter. “We are little birds who probably flew too many times. But we found we got bored after a while. And men often tire of twins . . . because we’d rather be with each other than with them.”

“We have had a wonderful life,” one said, with her arm around the other’s waist. “That is because we go on sister trip every year, same time, same place. No children, no grandchildren, no husbands . . . because once a year it’s time for just us.”

What is it like being an identical twin and having such a connection with another human being, I asked (because questions are part of my irritating nature).

“Oh, it’s glorious!” one said as she touched the well-sprayed hair of her sibling.

“Indeed,” said Twin Two, as she brushed what appeared to be an eyelash off the other’s cheek. “Our secret to a wonderful life has been each other. Because we found that men leave and sometimes die, children grow up . . .”

Twin One leaned in and touched my arm. “Go back to America with your beautiful man and be very happy. Go on holiday whenever you can. Eat dessert whenever you can. Dance any time there is music. And look at the sunset even when everything else around you is ugly.”

“And always, always remember,” one started, with the sentence finished by the other . . . “If you can drink Mojitos at 8 a.m., then you should drink Mojitos at 8 a.m.”

The sisters departed the next day and their beach chairs were vacant. I situated myself in my chair, staring at the sea with gratitude that I wasn’t experiencing sub-zero temperatures that were afflicting middle America.

“Senora Nebraska?” Fortunado asked as he approached me, holding his tray. “Anything I can get for you?”

I thought of the Italian twins and chuckled.

“Yes, I think I will have a Mojito,” I responded.

“Oh, senora!” Fortunado exclaimed. “Good for you! Something a little more exciting for this fine morning!”

“Oh, and Fortunado?” I added. “Can I get extra limes? Per favore.”


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