Wednesday, August 08, 2012

the first day of the rest of your life

That is something my mom says: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." That and: "Inch by inch, life's a cinch. Yard by yard, life's too hard."

Mike went back to work today, so I am on my own in Italy for the first time. I'm scared. It doesn't feel quite as dramatic as the day he went back to work after our son was born, but it feels big, having my buffer removed. "Just be," Mike said. "It's enough.Every small act here is an accomplishment."

But I feel helpless and useless. Here are today's challenges:

1. Making John's meals. I have been doing this at least three times a day for eight years. But here, we have no pans that can go in the oven because our "things" that have been shipped from home will not arrive for at least another month. We have no toaster oven. We have no microwave (although I did see one just sitting outside a church yesterday).  None of that would matter, however, if I could just bring myself to use the gas burners on the stove. Unfortunately, because the stove is 147 years old, it works by turning on the gas and holding a small Bic lighter to said gas until it erupts into flames, an accident waiting to happen if ever there was one. Luckily John is currently not hungry. But at some point he will want to eat.

Bic Lighter and stove. Why does the lighter have a picture of a sad puppy? Probably because it is worried the house will catch on fire.
2. Guido(real name) is coming today to install air conditioning. He speaks no English. I speak no Italian. The original plan of the placement of the air conditioning has been changed, although Guido does not yet know this and I need to somehow tell him. Because this is Rome, we do not know when he will be arriving. We do not know whether he will be paid by the landlord or if we will be expected to pay him. If we are to pay him, we do not know whether it will be in cash or by check. I am not technically allowed to write checks because I do not yet exist in Italy.

washing machine settings. if you can read them, please message me.
3.I need to do laundry. Although I have been hanging out the laundry and bringing it in and folding it and putting it away(it's very sweaty here--laundry is a several times a day type of deal), I am not entirely sure how to use the washing machine. How much laundry can I put in? What setting do I use? How much detergent? I have been operating by my new motto of If you don't know what it says on the box/bottle/instructions, do what you would like it to say. But we've all seen those sitcom episodes where the house in engulfed in bubbles and water because someone didn't know how to do laundry. Who wants to be an episode of Lavern and Shirley or I Love Lucy?

someone else's laundry. they also did not know how to use the washing machine. or stove because it looks like there may have been a fire.
4. I would like to go to the market and buy food and cooking tools and extremely long handled matches. However, there are not modern cash registers so I can't read how much I am to pay(Or ask the cashier. Or use my debit card) and the only number I know in Italian is 4 and that is because it is our apartment number and Mike insisted I memorize it (he then made sure our son knew our address because I often transpose numbers). Mike didn't even try to give me directions to get anywhere. He gave those directly to John. At home, it's mildly amusing that Mommy doesn't know her right or left or that she mixes up numbers or can't find her way out of a paper bag. Recently it took me two hours in both directions to walk my nephew to a park that was a mile from my sister's house because I kept getting mixed-up. And that was while using my iPhone and google map app. However, it is a not an uncommon trait in my extended family and we have learned to laugh about it , but here it seems pretty daunting.
Also, Italians either do not like or do not have much change. I have already seen many arguments because a cashier or merchant will not accept money from a customer if there is too much change involved. Why is this? I don't know. It's a very Jerry Seinfeld question: What is the deal with making change?

So, as you see, these are very small, mundane, everyday tasks that would be accomplished quickly at home. And in Italy, I think I will be lucky today if I can manage to accomplish even one of these. And also, I kind of feel like an idiot.

Here is Mike. Isn't he cute going off to work?


  1. Teacher assignments came in the mail today. Ella isn't thrilled with hers. But she's such a great kid, saying "it's ok, I'm sure we'll get along great" :)
    What came next was sweet though, "I'll miss Jack, Mama. Think he'll miss us too?"

    1. Oh, I love that she thought of Jack! She is darling, Jill. I'm positive she will get along well with her teacher--I can't fathom anyone who wouldn't adore Ella--but I'm sorry she didn't get the teacher for whom she was hoping. Thank-you so much for sharing this; I was bummed seeing all the teacher assignments yesterday and not being invested in in the school this year.