Thursday, June 3, 2010
The Bicycle Ride
My lovely sister-in-law [who married an Italian and lives here in Italy] tells me that there is an expression in Italian that goes something like, "you asked for the bicycle...now ride it." I thought of that expression a couple of times today, as this morning Michael left to teach for a week, and I am here in Toscolano with four kids, a few Italian phrases, and no car. It was my choice to stay here alone with the kids, as I could have gone down to the coast with my sister-in-law and her family or have even suggested that my in-laws come here to help me out [they offered and we get along great]. But, really, I am 37 years old, and should be able to handle this challenge. So, for the next week, I am riding my bicycle.
Today, day one, went well, although I am so tired the back of my eyes hurt. Part of my exhaustion comes from living in a culture where efficiency is not as highly valued as in my own. Here's my two cents about being here with a big family: the laundry machines are too small and take too long to wash so I am always doing laundry; the speed in which Italian cars wizz past on cobble-stone roads is ridiculously unsafe as the roads are big enough for two horses but not two cars and as such require at LEAST one adult per child for optimum safety; and having to go shopping every day for food is fantastic when you are by yourself and can enjoy the pleasures of finding the perfect peach on Monday, a ripe melon on Tuesday, etc., but is less enthralling with four kids. This is especially true when your four children are all under ten, and when child one is looking at milk products and discussing the "fantastic" and "delicious" options available of sweet milky desserts, child two is screaming about child three, child three is complaining about being hungry and "I mean hungry like I am going to die hungry," and child four is leaving small bits of Plasmon cookies everywhere much to the disgust of the shopowner. Would it ruin Italian culture to have a Target around where they could buy everything all at one place for the week? OK, it probably would, which is why we--and they--grin and bear it [or love it], and make every little trip an adventure.
So I will do the same. Today's big adventure was two fold: going to the store and going to the beach. First, I am proud to say I ordered all sorts of things from the butcher today, and got neither too much nor too little meat, two beautiful frittatas from the kitchen, and three whole wheat rolls from the baker. The kids did so well that the shop owner gave them all jellied fruit bon-bons, which Nicholas waited until AFTER we got out of the store to spit out [well done, Nick]. We ate like kings at lunch, although I think all the kids were tired of me re-living my ordering experience, but did not say so.
The second big adventure was that we walked to the beach. The beach is a good mile and a half away, which doesn't sound like much, but see above note about the cars. We made it there alive and in good spirits, and I was even asked directions by an Italian [I am blending! Of course, who travels alone with four kids, so I am sure she thought I must be local, but still...she thought I LIVED here!!] Anyway, we have rented our little beach chairs from the same nice man for three days, and today he gave us half off: the deal was that for today he speaks to me in English and I answer in Italian. This creates a funny exchange, as his English rivals my Italian, so we both primarily shout out nouns. I pointed to the balloons the kids were given by the ice cream vendor and shouted out: palloncini! [why do I know this word?] and he says balloon! and I say umbrellini! and he says umbrellas! and so on. The kids and I giggled a lot on our way to our beach chairs.
After a cold swim, a long walk back [with me screaming, "a car is coming, hug the wall, kids, HUG THE WALL!!"], and sighs of missing Dad, the kids crashed into bed. The last thing Nick told me tonight was that he thought today was fun. I am glad he thought so, because it was just the sort of a day I was hoping for, too. Ride on, kiddos, ride on.