Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Espresso + Daycare = Myth

I am on day 2 of the espresso¬†+ daycare equation with Eleanor. Let me just say now: WHAT espresso were they talking about. There is no espresso anywhere. (See yesterday’s post, “Rules and Systems.”)

Eleanor is doing great. She is unfazed as usual. Today she trotted out to the outside playground to kick it with the regulars. Her group is mixed ages, 1-3, so there are quite a few kids on scene quite a bit bigger than is she. (Victor’s class upstairs is also mixed ages, 4-6. We love this.)

Mama, on the other hand… what can I say.

I’m whining internally a lot. Alternating with white-knuckling my way through various situations.

My Italian is not up to snuff for either elite Florentines or the daycare professionals with their super strong Tuscan accents. I’m muddling my way through complicated interactions, feeling like an idiot.

You’ve done this before, I tell myself, Think of all your First Days. Think! Preschool, kindergarten, second grade, fifth grade, sixth grade … ninth grade… first year in college … Especially, do not forget those experiences abroad as a young adult in Spain and in France, at the start of long-term exchange programs, adrift on a sea of language and social code and trying my best to acquit myself honorably with my skills at hand.

Not to mention distant moves … job changes. And on.

It’s true that I got a bit battered culturally by Spain in 1993, and France … and in France for months. Months and months. 1995-1996. But neither did I expect to know much about anything in those places. Sure, I was frustrated. But the locals didn’t care. Whatever. Another youthful arriviste.

Now, I feel, the locals care. I’m older. A parent. A professional. A reflection on our family at large here.

Ugh and I feel like a moron.

A small group of moms and I milled about on the Scolopi schedule. Two or more of them speak English, but very reluctantly. One is American and cringes to speak English with me in front of the other moms. Another is deeply, deeply Florentine, and is clearly the Queen. She is impeccably turned out. Her clothes are perfect. She is so skinny she looks French. Her ballet flats are new, her purse must have cost 900 euros. She looks right through me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about side eye:

1 – the side eye that originates from an Italian who wonders what the American is doing there

2 – the side eye that originates from another expat who looks like they might wish you would disappear because you are harshing their local cover

I’m wearing the Wrong Clothes. Hair still looks deeply cavewoman. I’m in this little room with this gabbling group of Italian mamas, and I am getting about 50% of what they’re on about.

Other schools in town. Shots and vaccinations. Illnesses. Nannies. I hear “per carita” thrown around a lot by the Queen when talking about her resentment at sick children being brought to school by their working parents. She understands that parents have to work, but, per carita, Jocasta was so sick last year …

They pause every now and again to quickly ask me a question, but in the cavernous salotto with its hard floors and all the windows open onto the street with rumbling trucks, and blaring horns, and various shouting going on, I might as well be hearing impaired.

I’m focusing so intently on following their dialogue that I must look pained. I know those two creases that happen between my eyebrows when I am just thinking.

“Are you getting any of this?” They all stop to look at me as I slowly sip my apricot juice out of a disposable plastic cup and try not to cry.

“Um, I think about half. Sorry I am not talking,” I say. I am feeling quite awkward. I am wishing this morning would draw to a close.

“How long have you been in Florence?” they ask me.

It’s like a congressional hearing in Italian.

“Three week,” I say. “Weeks.” My palms are damp.

“Is your husband Italian?”

“No,” I say.

“Two of us went to this school as children,” one of them tells me, smiling. I wonder if I am supposed to guess which two. I think a few of them are cousins. Or one is a blood cousin to the husband of another? It’s hard to tell. Language is whizzing by me.

They look at me. Then they resume their chatter.

Finally one of the carers comes to the room and tells us the kids are all doing great, and that we can go get them in ten minutes.

Eleanor is almost asleep on the lap of one of the teachers. For about the fortieth time this morning, I am on the receiving end of a barrage of country Tuscan and I have no. Idea. At all. What has just been said.

I gather up all my things and Eleanor, and we catch the #31 bus home.

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5 Responses

  1. Monica, Hang in there. I feel sure you are worth more than any of them. In a similar situation you would be going out of your way to include and help! I am sending good thoughts although not, alas, in Tuscan Italian.

  2. Wow hang in there Monica….they have no idea who they are dealing with! Someday you'll look back on this and realize how far you've come. All your friends in the US are with you in spirit. Gay

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