Update from Italy: Sunday Morning

A light wind ruffles the leaves on the rose bushes in the terrace garden over our heads. If you gaze upward, like a saint, from the casement windows of our dining room, the breeze is almost always moving. Rain spits down even though the sky is light enough.

I opted out of church this morning as Jason has his hands full, kids are at home, and at the moment, my coping strategy and MO is, if you don’t have to do it, don’t do it. Not even out of worry, but just to manage stress and anxiety.

Santa Cecilia, 1606 by Guido Reni (November 4, 1575 – August 18, 1642) . Speaking of looking upward … gandalfsgarden.blogspot.com/2011/10/ (link inactive)

Even news items that are factual are misleading. For example, the predominant graphic on this DW article about Covid-19 doesn’t take into consideration the time frame for each of these illnesses. Measles was first described in Europe in the ninth or tenth century by the Persian polymath Rhazes; it was first reported in the U.S. in 1765, although had been brought to the Americas by Europeans in 1492. I ranted a bit to Jason about this over my morning tea.

I chatted my oldest Italian friend Paola to see how she is doing up north. We met in 1993 in Spain on an exchange program, and our friendship is now in its twenty-seventh year; some years saw close communication, others stretched out with infrequent check-ins. We’ve been in fairly regular touch since I moved back to Italy this time with the family, and have been back and forth to visit one another in Milano and Firenze. Paola was born and raised in Milan, and lives there now with her young daughter and her entire extended family within a stone’s throw from her apartment. She said everything is closed; it is eerie. Schools, cinemas, all public places. She’s been off work as she is a high school teacher in a liceo. They were going nuts in the apartment so headed out to the countryside for a few days, fresh air and less people. She messaged, it’s the first time anything like this has ever been seen! I thought to myself, well, in a handful of centuries.

Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash. Milan, if De Chirico had painted it.

We played in an empty park until Vic wiped out on his razor scooter and took some skin off his hands. He blamed Eleanor, but we talked about how he had opted into the game, too. No one made him do it. I was talking to one other lone Italian mom with a baby in her arms, talking about snow and mountains up north, and missed the actual moment of slippage and just saw him after he hit the pavement.

Jason’s been working the phone and his email almost nonstop since all the changes started on February 26. I knew it would be a long day of rain with two little kids in the house, so we headed up to his building again to run around the hallways and the gym again. They begged us to take them to McDonald’s or Burger King, but we said no, and anyway, we told them, it was raining, so the play places would be closed. The side tables in the basement corridor were drifted in low stacks of jettisoned student belongings: shampoo and hairspray, vitamins and Nyquil, tampons and books, endless young traveler detritus too expensive to check home. Many students departed Europe from where they were, changing their original ticket from Florence to their città del giorno. Jason estimated that about half of the 160 students who were here this semester are now at home in the U.S. or flying today. Another 60 will be travelling early this week. A handful, a dozen or so, seem to think this is a good time to tool around Europe, see some sights.

I trotted on the treadmill after the kids finished with it. They were reluctant to leave the gym.

We came home and made burritos (Jason and Vic), chicken ramen noodles (Eleanor), and a frittata and insalatone (me). Jason took a long call from a colleague in town whose program has not yet closed; he’s also drafting a piece for publication about similar epidemics that shaped Europe and Italy, and Florence in particular. I’ll link it here, as soon as it’s out, for historical context. It is times like these I wish the average human lifespan was 500 years and not 80 because we’d remember so much more that has gone before.

Jason and the kids are now watching The Neverending Story now on Netflix. “Hey, how long is this movie anyway?” Vic asked. Good kid, he always asks the relevant questions.

“About two hours,” we told him. “Like in a movie theater.”

Life seems pretty normal today.

Update: Eleanor bailed on the movie in tears because “it’s too scary.”