From his summer in the Italian Alps, Sean brought home a half dozen souvenirs: some herbal genepi from Aosta, a stick of torrone for dad and, from his hamlet in Val D’Otro, a round of fresh goat cheese. And a jar of alpine honey ”for Auntie Belinda,” he said. “I bottled it myself: it’s strong and slightly bitter.”
The next day we carried the cheese on our errands, so that he might take a photo of it from the Emeryville Marina—-white disk held up against the blue San Francisco Bay: a pic to send to Luca who fashioned it by hand on the first floor of his stone Walser farmhouse at 1800 meters—-his only power from a small turbine in the nearby mountain spring.
The following morning, everyone still asleep, the house quiet, I admired that little square jar on the kitchen counter, four tiny dimples on its unlabeled glass face, with its black tin screw-top lid. Full of clear honey, dark and rich, and rare. And I cried.
Was it the simple gesture of kindness that he displayed by carrying that fragile treasure all the way for his godmother back home, the only gift beside those few things he brought for family to taste: slice of goat cheese, some candy, and a loving toast of alpine liqueur? Or was it that I selfishly realized I might never taste that sweetness extracted by my son’s hands, or experience the essence from those alpine flowers that he lived amidst? Sean, my heart, flies off to Portland first thing in the morning.