Moments of Extreme Emotion: Meet Me Under the Bougainvillea

I have had many moments of extreme emotion. Some you may know about like flunking my driver’s test, an explosion in the curio cabinet, and a broken piano leg — and some you may not.

According to my journal, this particular moment lasted almost an hour and happened in Positano, Italy, a terraced town poised on a peninsula along the Amalfi coast by a vertiginous slope to the sea.


Quaint Positano rises up, up, up to houses crouched in cozy rows and leans down, down, down to the snug little village below. We leave the charming hotel, Villa Rosa, to spy out the sights and shopping. Positano itself is dripping with bellissimo scenes: lemons the size of grapefruit, grapes a million, shiny red peppers, elegant shoppes, delikatessens. Cliff wants to check out the sights first and I prefer the shopping, so we decide to meet at a certain time and place “under the bougainvillea” before we go our separate ways for awhile.

Now a host of pergolas of bougainvillea adorn the village, each pergola with blooms that cascade like crimson waterfalls. Of course, I think he must mean the one on the way down the steep street leading into the village.

Upper bougainvillea - where I thought we'd meet
Upper bougainvillea – where I thought we’d meet

In one of the shops, plates of lemon yellow and Mediterranean blue catch my eye with painting on the back “dipinto a mano per alimenti Positano” – hand-painted dish. They come bubble-wrapped so I can snuggle them against breakage between layers of clothing in my suitcase, I think. I can’t decide between the blue and the yellow, so I get two of each, complementary.

Soon it’s noon, the time we agree to meet before lunch. So I meander back up to the brilliant bougainvillea to people-watch and wait for my prince. I wait and wait and wait. No Cliff in sight! That’s just like him – losing track of time when he’s snapping photos. The minutes pass and I’m starting to get mad. The temperature on my “mad” gauge rises even higher as the sun beats down furiously on my head. Why didn’t I wear a straw hat and then I think “Where is that man?”

Mad turns slowly to sad as I realize he must have fallen over from heat exhaustion and now is lying at the foot of the Duomo, his camera case splayed out beside his prostrate body. Oh, my goodness, do they have ambulances in such a small town? I haven’t heard sirens here unlike Rome where horns hee-haw all hours like electronic donkeys. Finally, I convince myself Cliff’s not dead and probably still wandering around. My emotions cycle between mad and sad a few more times until I see a tall, blond man approaching me looking very mad himself, certainly not glad to see me again.

C.   “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you by the bougainvillea for almost an hour now!

M.   “Well, I could ask the same thing. I have been waiting ages under this pergola for you. I thought you might have keeled over from the heat. Where in the world were you?”

C.   “Don’t you remember?  The last thing we talked about was the bougainvillea by the Duomo, so I thought that was the place we were supposed to meet!”

Where Cliff thought we'd meet - by the Duomo
Where Cliff thought we’d meet – by the Duomo

We rehearse the scenario far too long and try to resolve the mix-up by arguing our own points of view, an exercise in futility. What we do agree on finally is a cool place for lunch which for us is a tomato-drenched pasta (larvae-shaped noodles) entré and an omelet. I exchange a pile of eggplant “aubergine” for an “ensalada mista,” garden salad.



I’ll bet you have a story similar to this one but with a different setting or a comment about this one.

Don’t be shy. Leave a reply!



47 thoughts on “Moments of Extreme Emotion: Meet Me Under the Bougainvillea

  1. All I could think while reading this was that it was too beautiful a setting for an argument. I’ve been to Italy twice–with each of my daughters on tours with their Latin teacher and other students–but not with my husband. I’m glad you resolved your argument and had your delicious lunch! I was going to say that after this maybe you both were more exact with your meeting plans, but then I remembered your previous post. 🙂

    The plates sound lovely, too. Do you have photos?


    1. You know what they say about the course of true love never running smoothly! As for communication skills, we are a work in progress although the snafus make for a good story.

      At your suggestion, I have included a photo of the plates at the end of the post. Thanks for always adding something valuable to the discussion, Merril.


  2. I’m guessing this was in the days before cell phones, or you didn’t have a phone with a European plan? My worst moment of desperation when my hub and I were traveling with our daughter in 2002 in Heidelberg, Germany; he grew extremely frustrated navigating narrow one way streets when we couldn’t find a hotel (one of the few places where we didn’t have reservations ahead of time) so he said he’d wait in the car while we hunted on foot. We left and then WE couldn’t find where the car was parked. No cells. There is a feeling of total panic like “where will we ever find him”–but obviously we did. And eventually we did find a hotel, and management even scored a mattress for our daughter to use on the floor, since all they had left was a double room. It is always interesting how time removes the panic and ill will, and we just remember the better moments. Mainly.


    1. Great story, Melodie. You are right: It was quite a while ago and we didn’t have cell phones. I do remember we saw people all over Rome with cell-phones and speculated about what they must be saying to one another. With cell phones of our own there would have be no argument but no story either!


  3. Oh, Marian, I looked right past your argument and soaked up the beauty of the Amalfi Coast which you describe so vividly here. My husband and I were there last September and your words take me right back there again. At least you didn’t stay mad-sad for very long in that breath-taking setting!


    1. Yes, the beauty is breath taking and so is the air. Fresh and invigorating even in warm weather. I wonder where you stayed along the Amalfi Coast. It would be hard not to pick a picturesque place. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and saw past our tiff, able to re-live your own memories of this gorgeous setting.


  4. Marian — I enjoyed your use of vibrant color throughout this post — a verbal watercolor! And the up, up, up and down, down, down, to describe the “houses crouched in cozy rows.”

    I had to laugh at your “gauge” going from mad (Where is that man?!) to sad (He must be dead on the roadside) as you waited (and waited!) in the heat.

    The silver lining on the scene is that you got to “iron the wrinkle of that particular fabric” in one of the most gorgeous settings on the planet!

    Years ago Len and I were taking what I thought was a leisurely stroll to the top of Palomar Mountain to reach the observatory. He kept saying “It’s just around the corner.” We weren’t properly equipped for this adventure because it was HIS last minute idea. I wasn’t wearing the right shoes, nor did we have drinking water, but he kept assuring me it was “just around the corner.” When it was all said and done, I tracked down a Forest Ranger, told him our starting point, and asked him just how long of a walk that had been. He said, “Seven miles!” You can imagine that I was madder than a little wet hen. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Len has never used the expression, “just around the corner” again…


    1. You have me laughing – in recognition of course. Marriage helps file off the rough edges of our character, they say, each anecdote a case in point.

      Better listening skills, pointed questions to clarify, and a ton of forbearance would be helpful. Who needs fiction if truth is just as entertaining? Right, Laurie? Thank you for the comment here and the tweet!


  5. I believe this is the most beautiful post you’ve ever done…argument and all. The sights and sounds made me feel as if I were there with you. Lunch sounded delicious and what a wonderful way to make up. The plates are lovely 🙂


  6. Delightful story, Marian. Everyone has a similar one, but not everyone tells it so succinctly, visually, and delightfully. The oscillating emotions seem appropriate in such a “vertiginous” setting.

    I’m trying to imagine how you will structure your memoir. You have great Mennonite childhood stories but also these wonderful “fancy life” adult stories. Perhaps you will pursue themes that begin in childhood, get filtered by new cultural context and maturity in adulthood, but persist in new forms??


    1. Yes, I’m glad the mood swings finally moved from mad to glad.

      Thank you, benign guide, for signaling some pathways to choose from. I’ve written a preface and begun a first chapter but I am open to alternative processes. I believe it was Madeleine l’Engle who said, “When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist.” That’s what I’m hoping. Thank you for caring and for being so encouraging.


  7. This was so interesting and fun to read! I felt every emotion! I’m so glad it turned out well! Your pictures are beautiful!
    We had a misunderstanding with my parents once when we were meeting at a certain exit off an expressway. This was long before cell phones. My dad said, “Let’s meet on the main street off the exit of the highway.” My husband heard him say “Let’s meet on Main Street after we exit the highway.” So we drove into town to Main Street and parked to wait for them. We waited hours! They were at the freeway exit waiting for hours! Finally my husband said maybe we should drive back to the exit and see if they were there somewhere, possibly at a gas station. Oh yes, they were there and had been there!!! Our visit was cut short of course because of our delay in meeting but we still ate a meal together and caught up on all the latest family news.


    1. Stories like this are experienced by friends and families quite often I’m sure. Thank you for sharing yours.

      I once heard of some friends that agreed to meet at a restaurant. Both made it to the restaurant, but one group was waiting in the car and the other inside in the lobby. Such a hard way to learn better listening skills, but it surely makes for a good story, don’t you think?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose your photographer’s bright eye also reflects your attitude toward life in general – a good thing. You always focus on the positive. That’s why I enjoy your website so much!


  8. Not quite the same but, towards the end of my last walking marathon, I texted Commando to tell him I was at mile twenty two so he should start for the finish soon. No reply. At mile twenty three I tried again. Nothing. I went through similar emotions to you. He’d run home through the dark streets of London when he left me at the start line, perhaps he’d been run over or mugged. Then again he was probably asleep and not listening for his phone.

    At mile twenty four I was crying, exhausted, worried, angry. There would be no one to greet me and take my photo at the finish line. I tried ringing but there was no answer so I left a distressed voice mail. Mile twenty five and he rang. He’d accidentally put his phone on silent and slept through my calls.

    He did make it to the finish. I did get a photo. All’s well that ends well.


    1. It’s interesting that our minds run marathons too when we are worried about a loved one. You are right: All’s well that ends well!

      Congratulations too on your walking a marathon, a great accomplishment, no doubt aided and abetted by chocolate!


      1. There might have been a little chocolate involved 🙂 this was actually my second marathon event and I’ve walked the twenty six a few other times for fun as well. I may need help 🙂


  9. OM word! We hiked the Amalfi coast some years ago and overnighted in Positano. I want to go back and see all that colour, those yellows, purples, oranges .. I bought some dishes which we use often .. and they always make me smile. Beautiful photographs Marian, thank you for sharing them. Have a wonderful weekend!


  10. An entertaining post Miriam. I can relate to some of that banter when signals get crossed, endlessly defending what we believe was the original meeting point. But at least you got to take in the beautiful scenery. 🙂 Stunning photos!


      1. Don’t worry, you’re are not first person to name me Miriam. Here’s my chance to post some of my other names: Marion, Mariam, Mirian, etc. With your sharp eye, you noticed it right away.

        As you say, LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. My story is about a pergola…in Colorado. We had a low, wide deck built, with a long New Mexican-style pergola of cedar and rose wood. It was wonderful. Along the deck border, we planted every flowering plant I had loved while growing up, twenty-one flowering bushes, trees and plants in all.
    By the third year they were all blooming beautifully, and the Thousand Star Clematis climbed up the poles of the pergola, creeped along the criss-crossed beams, and grew in stunning white splendor.
    We were hosting a 50-year wedding anniversary party for friends, and their daughter had a bit too much wine. When it was her turn to make a toast, she raised her glass to the blooming clematis and praised the beauty of the…hmm…what were they called again? she’d forgotten… and then she said she remembered…they were clamedia! (Okay, I can’t even spell it right, but she obviously was saying the word referring to the sexually transmitted disease.)
    Today no one remembers the party or our pergola or the flowers…but they do remember her toast.


    1. That’s a story worth re-telling. I’m sure their daughter has never been able to live that one down! It was a memorable toast – and under the clamedia — oops! under the CLEMATIS! Thanks for adding this juicy bit, Marylin!


  12. You had me at Positano. Such a beautiful spot that my sister has visited many times, but alas, I have never been to Italy much less the Amalfi Coast. Your lemon plates are beautiful! I’m so glad the story ended happily with a lovely and leisurely lunch. There should be much time in vacations for eating wonderful food, shopping and getting lost.


    1. If we had to get “lost” from one another temporarily, Positano was a wonderful place for that to happen. I hope you get to go to Italy and can explore the Amalfi coast, including Positano. Thanks for posting, Georgette and happy 4th blogaversary!


  13. I’m sure that my husband and I have had these type of mix-ups, but not in such a gorgeous setting.

    When we visited our former stomping grounds this summer, one of our friends told us that he’d mixed up the date that we were going to visit his home for a cook out. They were prepared for us – a week early. When we failed to show, he checked his messages and WHOOPS! ‘-)


    1. Oh, Kathy, thanks for living with the story! Though all of this happened in 1999, I kept a journal and of course shot pictures. A merry mix-up though it didn’t seem so at the time.


  14. For us it was meet you at the gazebo. I was at one and he at another. It didn’t end well. I realize I need to be more specific when communicating with dear hubby. Your plates are lovely.


  15. Your tale mirrors ours – just with a slightly different setting. Being more specific is the key. Thanks for the compliment abut the plates. They are on my table right now, Darlene!


  16. Our trip to Naro, Sicily was a trip of discovery. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were both born in Naro. My husband talked about visiting his family living there for years. Finally we did get the opportunity to travel to Naro and meet the family. It was the trip of a lifetime and I tell all in my book ‘The Italian Thing’. We loved everything about our trip, the good, the bad and the ridiculous. We also have family in a small village in Florenze, Prato and in Milan. However we are getting up there in age and travel is not as easy as it was fourteen years ago but we still make it one of our goals. Thanks to Face Book we do get to communicate with everyone as they post photos and news about the family. Calogero and his bride Val promised to visit us here in Florida next summer he is now twenty nine. The years are flying by but the memories are still as vivid as ever. :o)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We went to Italy as tourists – You connected on a deeper level as travelers with family connections – and the promise of a family visit in 2017. Wonderful!

      Many of the Italians we met at B & Bs were warm, friendly, and passionate about life. The closest we have come to things Italian here in Florida is with our CPA – a zestful woman, 2nd generation Italian, who puts up with our zany bookkeeping because she understands our strange “logic.” Ha!

      Thanks for stopping by to read and comment here, Patricia.

      Liked by 1 person

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