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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Home at Last

I have been re-reading Eat Pray Love, and while I do love Elizabeth Gilbert, her humor and her honesty about herself and life, it always breaks my heart a little to read other people's declarations of their love for Italy. Similarly, reading Frances Mayes' books does this to me. It is like hearing other women talk about your lover.

I know very well that I am not the first nor the last to give my heart to Rome, but it always makes my stomach sink a little to recognize how many of her lovers are out there. And Rome, perhaps like the stereotypical Italian lover, doesn't limit himself. He tantalizes and exudes appeal to every potential suitor, happy to grow his collection of admirers.

However, unlike Elizabeth Gilbert and her flirtation with the Italian language, seeing life through the poetry that is learning a new language, I, in my fifth year here, am not flirting with wistful Italian verbs or scrumptious nouns making up Italian meals, I have delved into words like sciopperocaldaia, riparare, chiuso: strike, hot water heater, to repair and closed... these aren't the sexy words of a first affair or a magical vacation, but these are the words of home And in that way, they are more endearing to me.

Italy is my home now. I have fought that reality for years which has led to the various undulations between my life "here" and my life "there." I have used valid arguments and made a compelling case to sway the jury for why Italy could not be home. But the jury was never swayed. My reasons never held up against the reason of "why not?" Why not call it home? Why be tied to definitions?

I've never been a believer in definitions. I don't think smart, funny or easy mean the same thing to everyone. I don't think the concepts of marriage or motherhood are limited to one traditional definition. So why have I been so strictly adhering to the definition of home. Why have I been so reluctant to call Rome my home?

Life here is not only walking around the city wide-eyed, open-mouthed gawking. Life is now knowing how to install internet, to have a hot water heater replaced, to talk to a porter about getting an old antenna off the roof. No, not sexy things, but very Italian words in their mundane-ness. There will always be room for the beautiful words like passeggiata, spiaggia and meraviglioso. But life isn't only those words. Now, I can also say, Ho bisogno di una nuova lavatrice, "I need a new washing machine," and that is the real language of love; it is the language of home.