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A Little Bit of Spring

It was about this time last year that the lockdown began.

I was in the middle of an English course when all of the talk of it started — the idea that this something, this Coronavirus, was coming, was already in Italy. That English course was in a town along the beach, but we were stuck in a classroom the size of a broom closet, just trying our best to get through the three weeks together without panicking about the daily news stories popping up. Lombardy had been hit hard. Veneto in the north. Emilia Romagna. Twelve of us — eleven students and me — all carried on with our normal lessons, squeezed into this cramped space, trying to make light of it all. At the time, none of the news was in any way real: there were no masks, and the one student who went home to the Veneto for the weekend in the middle of the outbreak was teased relentlessly when he returned — and there we sat, in the classroom with the windows closed and us breathing stale air at the tail end of February. There were still evenings out: we went for pizza one night, all of us bunched together in a booth, sharing slices of our pizzas, having a beer at the bar. I remember that night, when I got back into my car, some students stayed out later, walked all along the beach in Civitanova like it was theirs, frolicking in the spark of an early spring. No curfews, no lockdown, no masks, no hand sanitiser. No clue, really: we couldn’t have guessed what was to come.

The other day I asked my students — these four new students who sit, social distanced and masked in our spacious classroom with three white boards and a computer and a television, and windows that we open every hour to air out the room during a fifteen break — what they miss the most. What is that we don’t have anymore? It seems like an easy question, but every day our answers change, like we recall something new. They think about it for a second, a faraway glint in their eye, looking back to a time that’s long gone.

“I miss the family dinners, one student said. “Or the big lunches, like at weddings — remember weddings?” We all sighed and laughed in a moment of recognition — the Italian wedding ceremonies with their lunches that drag on into the night, with music and laughter, friends and family. Ah yes, weddings.

“I miss spending time with family,” one student said. He’d just told us a memory of his childhood — days spent with his grandmother and how special those times were. He could remember mornings at her house, the ceramic tile floor, the color of the walls and the patterns on the tablecloths. “I miss our Sunday lunches.” And he went on to describe, as we listened, mouths watering, the Eggplant Parmigiana that his grandmother used to make him when he was little: the slices of mozzarella and the layers of fried eggplant and the tomato. A recipe that he’s passed on to his family, even now.

a little sunlight on the drive home

I told them that I missed pizza dinners. Pizza? Really? They said, laughing. I tried to explain. “I miss sitting down at restaurants and having that big round pizza in front of me, knife and fork in hand. I miss the feel of reaching my hand into the plate of French fries, accidentally bumping my husband’s hand, reaching for the same French fry. I miss nights out. Dressing up, and all of the occasions we had to dress up for.” At that point they nodded too. We miss the same things — all of us. The connections, the special occasions, the family and friends that we could sit and laugh with, next to another — the maskless smiles that you could actually see. The before times. And I missed home — I was homesick as could be — but I couldn’t really talk about that, could I, without getting a little misty myself?

Tomorrow red zone starts here in Macerata. Another dose of this, a lot of questions and a lot of concerns. But I am still glad it’s Friday. I had a great week — the four students seem to have joined up into a type of team: they love each other, they laugh at each other’s jokes (and mine sometimes), they send funny videos and voice messages to our WhatsApp group in the evenings. But even so, it’s tiring, isn’t it? I’m exhausted every evening, with private lessons and nights when I can’t seem to make it past 10 PM. I go to bed early, having fallen half asleep on the couch in front of some TV show that Antonello and I are watching. I tuck myself in. The weeks are starting to blend together again, and now, in our own provincial red zone (just the province of Macerata, not the whole region), we wonder about the next few days. Easter is right around the bend. Are we going back into a national lockdown? Is this some horrible version of deja vu? Or will we make it through, slip through the cracks, keep going, trying out this endless array of color regions — reds and yellows and oranges. And shouldn’t it be springtime now? How is this year, that only just began, already feeling like it’s never ending?

Today I drove into town one last time. One last trip before red zone begins in the morning. And the drive up itself had me stop in my tracks. The trees on Borgo San Giuliano, right by the house where Antonello used to live, were all blooming and full of pinks and reds. I stopped the car and looked up. I thought of the things I miss. There are so many things. Family – Dad and Marilyn. My brother and my friends. Trips to America. Weddings too. Dinners and pizza and French fries at some pizzeria in town, and reaching over the dinner table to squeeze Antonello’s hand, feeling like just us in the middle of a crowded room. Hugs. Dressing up in my best clothes for a dinner out. My nieces and my nephews. Laughter and loved ones and baby Ludovica who we haven’t seen in months. Promises of trips to see friends, to have adventures, to meet spring somewhere, to chase the sunset and just enjoy it. Going for a run in the neighborhood back home, one time around the golf course and down the tree lined streets with that littlest wisp of a breeze suspended in the air, catching you off guard in the middle of a summer day.

I made a wish. Please, can we have some of those things? And soon? Can this year bring blessings? From here, the view of Macerata was as sweet as could be: the trees, and their blossoms, and the church and the hill. The colors and the light that was still in the sky. The days were growing longer now. The air a little warmer. Spring was coming. I could feel it. In fact, maybe it was already here.

Today I’m listening to: Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan.

Borgo San Giuliano

Published by Jackie in Italy

I'm living in Le Marche Italy. It's 2020 and we're all on lockdown (update: still blogging even though lockdown is over). Welcome to my blog.

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