Update from Italy: Wednesday, March 11

Photo by Jon Butterworth on Unsplash

It’s a sunny gorgeous day in late winter. And yet Victor was up by seven this morning, hopping around when I woke up, in tears over homework by nine, which we finally abandoned, incomplete, for an excursion to the park. Eleanor is riding her bike really well without training wheels. She’s far better at stopping that starting, which is a good place to be, developmentally.

I subscribed today to the NYT. The Guardian and the BBC lack depth at times on U.S. news – and why wouldn’t they.

Schools here have now been closed a week, and we’re in our second day of general lockdown. I hasten to add here that in no way does it feel as though martial law has somehow been enacted. In Florence, there is a general sense of everyone being prudent and doing their part to Not Make Things Worse for Hospitals. We are staying indoors, and when we go outside, it’s to the park in front of our building, being mindful of space. (4.5 meters keeps echoing in my mind.) The numbers are definitely down on the playground, however.

No one we know has tested positive – yet. I am sure it is just a matter of time. I hope not, but it is likely. The WhatsApp chat groups from the kids’ classes are full of cheerful parents suggesting that we reorganize our homes, do this worksheet with the little kids, here’s an idea for a project. Meanwhile a positive case was registered early this week, across the street from where I work, albeit in a private palazzo. The husband of a woman who works with the husband of a friend has tested positive. The midnight raves with the Italian teens seem to have subsided. In the park I walked past an Italian nonna on a bench in the glorious warm sunshine, Io lo so, però ho paura, she said, her voice choked. I know, but I am afraid.

I still feel that the UK, US, and EU at large are about two or three weeks behind our epidemic curve. Fatalities in Italy yesterday jumped about 35%, which was expected, but to think of all the nonni and genitori – grandparents and parents – mostly grandparents – who have passed from this, and I choke up. The Italian social fabric is very tightly knit. The losses will be deeply felt.

I feel my comments and observations have piqued our friends stateside, and for that, I am sorry. I only wish to report what is happening here, with one family in lock down – neither quarantined nor isolated – in Italy. I am acutely aware of the social challenges that will be presented in high relief by the epidemic. I am American; I have always lived mostly in the U.S.; we moved to Italy in 2016 for Jason’s work. I know where the pain points and pressure points are on the U.S. system that will make this all more difficult for Americans than it has been, in many ways, for Italians. Issues surrounding equal access to healthcare; race and privilege; wealth and hoarding; families in poverty; public school systems; lack of paid sick leave; lack of job security; fragmented, mistrustful communities. America has been for years strung together with baling wire, and this situation is going to stress it to capacity. I hope someone in America is starting to report their personal experiences right now. Please link me if you know anyone, especially in King County, an area close to my heart and possibly, and soon, entering into a situation parallel to that of ours here in Italy.

One of the omnipresent itinerant sellers came through the playground today. We know him by face, but not by name. His usual market of parents and nonni was not present today. We both wished him a buona giornata, which he accepted with a smile and moved on. A half hour later I was assisting Eleanor on her bike and saw him walking up and out of the park, toward the viale – the ring road that goes around the city. I have not been to church in a couple of weeks amidst all this, I reasoned, why not just skip the plate and go straight to the palm. Signore! I yelled. Signore. I ran to catch up to him and pressed a five euro note into his hand. He looked surprised. Prego prego, I said, and waved him on, turning back to make sure Eleanor had not wiped out during the transaction.

Namaste, everyone. And please, don’t kill the messenger. Information is your ally.