Patriotic moments can sneak up on you. Especially when you live abroad.
One in particular I can’t forget.
When my husband and I lived in Italy, we were invited to an American-style rodeo by a very-enthusiastic-about-American-rodeos Italian couple.
I imagine we were exciting for them. Real live, breathing American specimens to experience a rodeo with.
We arrived in our recently purchased Italian clothes and they in Levis and cowboy hats. We squished into a car full of other American-rodeo-enthusiasts to a Northern Italian locale a few hours from where we lived.
When we finally got there, we were ushered into what appeared a heavily Levi-sponsored shop, with belt buckles, cowboy hats, boots and jeans at double or triple the price in the States.
We then entered the rodeo. And with (purposely polite) surprise, we saw many other Italians, dressed up in American rodeo attire just like the group we arrived with (Armani would be shocked).
We tried to appear unstartled by the surreal scene in front of us: the rodeo, real American cowboys speaking American English after months and months living in a city where not an American-accented person could be found.
Then the song began. Without warning. It took us by surprise.
The American National Anthem. As we took our seats, the familiar Star Spangled Banner music began and the crowd – Italian hands covering Italian hearts – settled on a large American flag and began singing. We looked at each other nervously, like imposters, swallowing what began as a giggle but quickly turned into a lump that formed in our throats. Next came the surging emotions – homesickness, the displacement of expat life, the visceral reaction to a song that pulled at something deep within us. We were overwhelmed.
We sang quietly and both wiped a tear away. And then it was over, as quickly as it began.