Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arriving in Italy from California with twin babies

My husband, Tom, and I had twin girls in November of 1972 and we left California for Italy in February, 1973. The logistics of maneuvering twin babies across the country was interesting in itself. A friend who had been a stewardess/flight attendant (Nancy Glaser) had given us “airline carrier infant beds” (basically two long, shallow banker-boxes into which we put a bassinette mattress).

Sometimes we put the girls in little plastic “seats” that were used in the car or on a table. Today we would be arrested for child abuse! We spent a month driving between California and New York before leaving for Italy. We visited many friends across the country, and then shipped our car from Bayonne, New Jersey and left for Italy from New York City.

We flew into Milan on a plane that was not full at all and they let us put those “airline beds” on the plane’s floor and let Tom and I both have three seats each to lay down and sleep. As a result, the flight across the pond was quite uneventful. Then we landed in Milan where we changed planes to go to Venice.

This was our first experience on how “gemelli” (twins) were going to get special attention in Italy. As we changed planes, we saw many policemen (who we learned were Carabinieri). They were quite intimidating since we had never seen armed policemen with huge guns strapped across their bodies in the United States! When we put the girls down in those little plastic seats, those policemen came over and with those big guns on their bodies, just leaned down and picked up each girl and babbled something that was probably “Que bella! Gemelli! Bravo!” We had NO idea what any of that meant but we were certain that we were not going to argue with them!

The policemen showed the girls off to other police-friends, and then gently put them back into their seats as their guns fell onto the girls and then patted us on the back, continuing to say “Bravo!”. We smiled and then kept walking to get on the plane to Venice. So much for keeping people from picking up the kids so they would not get colds!

The plane to Venice was a small plane and a very short flight. The airport was VERY tiny at the time and I remember changing the girls’ diapers on a baggage conveyor belt in a covered, outdoor area. We were met by Bob Burnett (another officer in Tom unit, the 2187th Communications Squadron), who piled all of us into his car (with our baggage) and we headed to Aviano! He took us to the Hotel Royal. It was a brand NEW hotel between Aviano and Giais, up against the mountain. They took us to a nice, clean, simple room that had a balcony and overlooked the valley. They had put a crib in the room and we actually had a private bathroom. I put both kids in the one crib and separated them with towels. Then, amazingly, they told Tom that he had to go to work! WHAT??!! Oh, well. Guess we had to go with the flow.

Tom left me alone with the girls. I don’t even remember dinner that night (I think we ate at the hotel), but I was pretty sure I was getting sick. I ended up at the “hospital” (actually a 10 bed mini-hospital/clinic). I told the emergency room tech that I was really sick. He asked how long I had been in Italy and I told him I had been there less than 24 hours. He told me that I had “it”. I quickly informed him that what I had was NOT “it” and that my sickness was special and that I was probably dying. He told me I was wrong and that I would be better in approximately 24 hours. Damned if I was not better in almost exactly 24 hours. Go figure.

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