Diary of a Lockdown

March 10, 2023

I kept a diary during the first Lockdown in Italy. Having a place to record my own experience during those many weeks we were confined to our homes became a daily practice that provided me with comfort and consistency during a time of historic upheaval in the world. We were the second country after China to fully lockdown and it was… I’m not sure I even know yet what it was. By now, we are all used to the concept having gone through it globally in various forms. For a while I shared my entries here on my website but later took them down, feeling unsure that it was useful or appropriate to share when there was so much suffering and confusion all around the world, after all I was quite safe locked away in my apartment in Rome all things considered. But perhaps my discomfort with sharing the diary was that we were all so immersed in the Pandemic that I didn’t have enough distance to reflect and process what was really happening. Only now, three years to the day of the first Lockdown – it was March 9, 2020 that the then Italian Prime Minister Conte announced on live television that Italy would be locking down – am I ready to re-read whatever it was that I wrote.

Last night, realizing it was the eve of the third anniversary of our Lockdown I decided I would look through my diary and share snippets here. I’ve just thumbed through little bits and pieces and so much of it is really about life in Italy. I had only been living in Rome for a year and a half when the Pandemic hit and was just getting a sense of the place. Being cut off from Rome gave me the chance to sift through what I had learned to that point about living here, about Italy, and about becoming Italian.

I’ll be sharing little snippets from my Diary here daily, maybe for just 21 days. I don’t know. But I’d like to use this as a writing practice, like prayer beads, just to see what’s there. I’ll be sharing bigger chunks of it – and reading from it too – on my Substack if you’d like to follow along there. Thanks for reading and let’s see where this goes!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Day 1

She calls to cancel my appointment which I assumed would happen. We commiserate about the state of things and agree that it’s important to be calm and that the government is doing the right thing. See you when this crisis is over, she says, Forza Italia! If I weren’t forced to stay home I wouldn’t be staring at the tree, I wouldn’t have the time. I am watching two crows make a nest. I am also watching the news. All of the time. I worry about the elderly man at the sartoria, who needed his pants taken in because he was losing weight. He wanted to have his pockets altered. Shortened, not so deep perché diventa pericoloso, he said. Is he scared? Does he need supplies?

Wednesday, March 11, Day 2

M. is home teleworking. It’s nice to have company. We’re in this together. The hasta #IoRestoACasa is circulating all over the country. #IStayHome has become our civic duty. This is how we help others: by not being a part of the chain of contagion. I feel like eating oranges. And carrots. I wonder how long my supplies will last. My husband isn’t so adept at staying home. He thinks I am brave because I had already been playing it safe and staying home. It’s early evening and he can’t take it. He goes for a walk and comes back with oranges. He bought them from the fruttivendolo because he couldn’t get into the grocery store. The line was too long. We eat oranges and watch the news. As we are getting ready for bed he says that this will be a good test of our marriage. We’ve been married for 25 years. I fall asleep thinking of a generation of Corona Babies.

Thursday, March 12, Day 3

We filled our our autocertificazione forms to have on hand and argued about whether you are allowed to go out for a walk. We have different interpretations of the regole so we go onto the Health Ministry’s website. You can’t go out for a walk. In the evening the news announces a travel ban to the United States from all of Europe. Will we ever see N. again?

Friday, March 13, Day 4

I finally fell asleep early in the morning. The time difference between Rome and the East Coast has me on a double news shift. I’m training Mr. or Mrs. Crow. I’ll call her The Crow. I’ve left her another walnut on the balcony ledge. It’s so quiet. Everything is quiet. Even the neighbor across the hallway isn’t yelling at her granddaughter. Even the crows are quiet today. Maybe she is laying eggs already. That seems like quiet work. At 6 pm we stepped out on balconies to sing the national anthem. Neighbors I’ve never seen before peeked shyly out of their windows to see if anybody else was out. The louder the singing got the more they inched out and soon we were all cheering Forza Italia!

Saturday, March 14, Day 5

The Crow flew in for another walnut this morning. I’s another grey day. I’ve done the news rounds. I’m not sure if this is responsible behaviour, be an informed citizen, or if I’m neurotic. I’ve seen footage of Italians singing their hearts out from windows and balconies and it is the strangest thing to see your city on the screen knowing you are inside one of those buildings. Someone in Ohio is seeing this footage and I am living it. Tonight’s sing-along is Azzurro. I don’t know the words so I listen to it on Youtube to prepare. It’s as exciting as going on a date. The hospitals in Lombardy are maxed out. They’ve set up a field hospital. We are cleaning the house. I’m appalled at how messy we’ve become. I worry about coming down with symptoms and what if the Covid team has to come swab me and trips all over my junk. Italians are all about appearances. Their clothes are always impeccably ironed and stylish. Shoes polished, even sneakers are washed and kept bright. On weekends I see stacks of sneakers airing out to dry on terraces. Women wear put-together outfits to go out and then come home to their house dress or chic loungewear. Their living rooms are tasteful and formal, not a speck of dust anywhere, everything is just so, with family photos on display in silver frames.

At 6 pm we open our window wide to the sound of Azurro. The little boy across the building has come out again with his horn. I see more necks stretching out windows and the singing is definitely louder than yesterday. The little boy’s horn sputters to a stop, his head drooping. Dai his parents encourage, “come one, give it another go” and we all yell from our building “dai!” and so he puts the horn to his lips and laboriously plays the song. The man with a drum one floor up accompanies him, keeping up with his erratic playing. We are all clapping and swaying along. Even a dog on a terrace starts jumping up and down in excitement. And when he finishes we all cheer. I hear people call out “Bravo, Niccolò!” That’s our son’s name. We look at each other in surprise, tears in our eyes, feeling connected to our son who is so far away.

Next entry tomorrow….

These entries are being made available here

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