It has been a month since you have heard from me. Yikes? What have I been doing? Well for the first week after the USA election I stayed in bed with a bottle of scotch and Italian candies. Baci, baci!!
It has taken a while for me to make the transition from a citizen of Southern Italy to a citizen of the USA. Every November I find myself back in New Jersey. I am happy to be in the clutches of my family and friends. Ecstatic to see how much the wee ones have grown into interesting young adults. After the frenzy of “welcome backs,” the happy hugs that make the emotional bubble in my chest burst with love, I look around and think “where am I?” I had a teacher once who said that Europe didn’t exist – you got on a plane and flew around and then landed at a place like Disney Land where the pretend Europe was built. He was kidding and trying to get us to think about the explorers who thought the world was flat. He wanted us to realize that you have to get out of your comfort zone and see the world in order to understand not only the breadth of the world’s society – but who you are. But where am I?
The transition from the woman who lives in a small Southern Italian village to the woman who lives in the buzzing metropolitan area has always been difficult. The culture shock of prices – $10 for two cappuccinos and one brioche makes my blood boil. Hey, I get great cappuccinos for €1 and a FRESH brioche that tastes GREAT for €1. Errrggg. But more than prices, it is my difficulty accepting the changing cultural climate of my motherland. I don’t need to harp on it – those of you who marched for equal rights understand that now we appear to be sinking into the quicksand of — well I can’t even talk about it. If I do, I’m sure my “file” will just get thicker.
Transitions. How do I transition from a life that includes a daily walk down the hill to the village piazza for a cappuccino and conversation to a life that means driving for an anything? Everyone I pass in Pontelandolfo says buongiorno. People I pass in my car flip their middle fingers because I drive to slow, fast or freaky. The fruits and vegetables I buy from Antonio’s truck in Italy haven’t been sprayed with stuff that could kill me. The meat at the macelleria hasn’t been shot up with hormones. Yes, I am lucky to have found a circle of local organic farmers in NJ so I am not forced to shop at giant super-markets. I think about those that can’t.
Transition – my credit card is leaping out of my wallet. Don’t get me started on big pharma and the fact that the USA does not have a single payer health care system and is ranked under my feet on most studies. Bloomberg News , Bloomberg Health-Care Efficiency Index, on September 26, 2016 ranked Italy 6th and the USA 50th. My co-pay in Italy for my high blood pressure medicine is €2 – in NJ it was $46. How could this be?
I am a child of the 60’s. During my university and young adult years, I was part of the politically active force of women who helped insure that reproductive rights belonged to women. Who marched and voted for equality for all. Who forced curriculums to include literary works by more than dead white men. Who tossed boulders at glass ceilings. Who organized communities to improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. Who worked to bring arts experiences to children from all socio-economic strata. Who –
Who now wonder “where have all the flowers gone – long time passing.” (Lyric by Pete Seeger.) That is who I am.
Don’t despair, dear readers, don’t despair. In a day or so the transition will be done and I will be back to my funny sardonic self.