One of the peculiarities of Italy - a thin country ridged by mountain ranges - is that you don't have to travel too far to find very different weather, climates and landscapes. So, when we head north one day in February, we may well drive along the sunny Mediterranean coast where the mimosa trees are blooming yellow, cross the cloudy, rainy Apennine Mountains where the only sign of life is the smoke from the chimneys, and in just an hour arrive in the plains of the Po River where everything is blanketed in fog.
Which is just what happened this weekend, when we went to my sister's birthday party. But there was more than just fog.
There were little kids roaming the woods, and getting their shoes and socks thoroughly drenched and muddy. There were teens and college students DJing music for their parents, and those parents - brothers, sisters, cousins, spouses - singing along with Cat Stevens, "Why, think of all you've got. For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not".
There was hot polenta. There were cakes. There was champagne.
In a house in the foggy plains, one weekend in February, there was a family. Forty people, three generations from age one month to eighty plus, all gathered together to celebrate.