18 February 2011, Pontremoli, Italy
The pediatrician’s office was fascinatingly archaic. No front desk. Nor computer. Not even a clipboard with a sign-in sheet. No scary pamphlets or drug advertisements, but handwritten announcements in colored pen adorned the walls. A few mothers sat with children in modern chairs along a corridor for about ten minutes per child, identical little green 1970s vaccination books in hand. Remembering the little green book to record vaccinations is a small price to pay for healthcare.
Other than styles of dress, it could have been any day in any era, and I assume that in twenty-five years, other than styles of dress, one will experience a carbon copy of today’s scene. The mothers in the waiting room bore slight variations on a basic uniform: severe haircuts with hip, thick, blunt bangs in either a single-deposit slightly-aubergine-tinged black tone or an orange-cast blonde with platinum highlights, either blown dry to sculpted perfection or scrunched into a windproof tumbleweed. There wasn’t a dry or colorless lip in the lot, and those unfortunate to need corrective eyewear do so with authority. Chunky plastic Sofia Loren frames hover closely over a chunky kohl version of Sofia Loren makeup, necklines mostly bundled with something fuzzy around the face in the winter chill. Form-fitting puffer coats, in varied finishes from flat to reflective, vaccu-sealing them down to the knees where boots take over to continue the job. This is rural Italy’s late Generation X and early Generation Y, more worldly than their predecessors, but home to roost in a nest of tradition.
An elderly woman sat waiting for her daughter and grandchild, possibly the great-grandchild, her head wrapped in a black and white head covering reminiscent of a nun’s habit. Her face was etched like the palm of a hand, a multitude of lifelines passing through hers and behind dark eyes was a workworn shell, her parched skin threadbare from tireless service. I believe she was Romanian, of the people who find their way to Italy to become laborers of gypsies. She was void of all emotion, the villager spark absent in her eyes, clearly not Italian.
Birth is exceptionally momentous here, an entire village often frozen in place at the sight of an approaching mother and buggy. It was just yesterday when we stopped at the mechanic shop and three smudged men came out from beneath car hoods to coo at a wiggling Elio in the rear of the Conti car. By now it is no surprise to me when a shriek or cartoon-like mouth expansion aimed at amusing the baby causes multiple delays on the day’s errands, for which there is painfully limited time to begin with. When there is a new baby, one must factor in being stopped by each and every passer-by when creating an agenda, and plan [realistically] accordingly. My peaceful time with Elio is when he is sleeping in the car and I have time to make notes about the day while Cornelia “pops into the post” or has to “run in to pay the fruit and veg guy.” Beside the sweet-smelling silky-skinned breather, I sketch and scratch my thoughts into the notebook I bought in London, the one I scrambled to find when I was moved to compose a piece earlier in this blog (art awakens.) The notebook itself is developmental, my scratches getting shorter with integration and the words coming alive of their own choosing.
Deliberately noticing everything is my oxygen, and where it takes me is nirvana. Immersion into an Old World traditional lifestyle is blending my edges gently, hardened parts and petulance fading with expanding borders. And beside me Elio sleeps, a new addition to this wheel of life, joining me as an unsung archetype, The Guided. Every One is. But not all will look and listen and dream. Some will just be, and others will just do. And all of them are perfect.