Although my sister Jaclyn and I have been in Europe for almost three months, and Jaclyn (at 20-years-old) has had the luxury of being able to walk into any bar she wishes and actually be served a drink, we still made a huge celebration out of her turning 21 in Rome on Friday.
There are four children in the Bergstein Clan: Josh, 25, is an English teacher in Harrisburg, Pa. Right smack in the middle is yours truly and last are the twins. Yes, Jaclyn has a twin. His name is Mitchell. Jaclyn is older by one minute. Yes, they get along and have that weird “twin thing” where they think and feel the same things. No, he doesn’t also go to Temple, he’s in the Marine Corps. No, he and Jaclyn aren’t identical. How would that even work? Wait, what is this… 20 questions? I thought I was the one doing the talking here!
Sheesh, ok so moving along. Jaclyn’s twin (my younger brother) Mitchell decided to enlist in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. It was a decision that surprised all of us, but we are insanely proud of him nonetheless. It has been such a blessing watching him grow and become this incredible (gentle)man.
Exactly 18 days ago, Mitchell left for his first deployment in Afghanistan. He might be my little brother, but I definitely look up to him (literally, the kid just keeps growing!). But in all seriousness, Mitchell is my hero, and my motivation in always trying to be a better person. I try telling him all the time, but I don’t know that there’s a way to truly express how much I love, admire and appreciate all that he is and all that he does for this country. Unfortunately, Mitchell can’t be here in Rome with Jaclyn and I, enjoying this semester the way we are by learning and exploring and traveling to exciting new places. He is certainly making a great sacrifice, and for that I am truly grateful.
So Jaclyn and Mitchell’s 21st birthday had an interesting little twist to it: Jaclyn is living in a country where there is no drinking age and so turning 21 in Rome certainly isn’t a big deal like it is in the States; and Mitchell is serving his country in a place where alcohol is illegal for everyone. As much as we’ve been trying to blend with the Italian culture, at the end of the day we’re still Americans, so we celebrated Jaclyn and Mitchell’s (yes, Mitchell’s too) birthday by taking them out for a good time in Rome like it was their very first time in a bar.
Wait, I thought you said Mitchell was in Afghanistan? How did you take him out for his birthday if he’s not even there? Ahh, good question, you were reading carefully. I brought a photo of Mitchell with me to Rome that I keep by my bedside, and I decided that since he couldn’t be here to celebrate his day of birth with Jaclyn, that we’d take him (well, a photo of him) out for a fabulous 21st birthday celebration in Rome. We even got the whole thing on film so that we can send it to him and he can see that he had a great 21st bithday celebration, afterall.
We took this photo of Mitchell with us everywhere we went the entire day before and the day of his and Jaclyn’s bithday. On Thursday we had him go to the library to study, attend Italian class to take a quiz, enjoy a capuccino in Rome, get ready for a night out on the town, eat the birthday dinner of chicken parmesean that we (a group seven of us) got together at my apartment to make, and then go out to a bar and a nightclub to ring in the big 21st. We even got up early the next morning to make Mitchell and Jaclyn a big American breakfast of omelets and home fries. Now I know that Jaclyn did, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d say Mitchell had the most phenomenal 21st birthday in Rome as well.
It was weird for me two years ago when I turned 21 (only because I am only really 13 at heart), but I have to say it was even weirder celebrating my baby sister and brother’s 21st birthday. I am just glad that I was able to be here in Rome with Jaclyn (and even just a photo of Mitchell) for their big day. It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say that you (even if it’s just a photo of you) celebrated your 21st birthday in Rome.
Buon compleanno, Jaclyn and Mitchell!
Mitchell… whenever you get a chance to read this from over there in Afghan-land, know that I can’t say enough how much I love you and miss you and wish that you could be right here with us. Happy 21st Birthday baby brother. We’ll have our time to travel when you come home to us. Be safe and be strong until then. Big bear hugs and icky sister kisses, little man. I love you to the moon and back.
And to all of our men and women in uniform who have served or are currently serving: from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you do for the greatest country in the world. God bless you, and God bless America.