Home Alone – My Life during the First Coronavirus Pandemic
Northern Italy 13th February, 2020 – I am in Fara Vicentino, my birthplace, in the Veneto Region of northern Italy; the next day I fly back home to Melbourne, after spending six memorable weeks with my relatives. I hear the first mention of Coronavirus on the news when I get back home, but I am not unduly concerned because it is on the other side of the world, in Wuhan, China. There are no cases yet in Australia.
My 70th Birthday 22nd January, 2020 – I turned 70 years of age but, as I was travelling, my celebration is postponed until later. On my return, my grand-daughter Sadie draws me a footpath ‘card’, and my children gave me the gift of a photo book with dedications in it from every member of the family. I cannot wait to hug my 11 grandchildren. The Coronavirus puts an end to my birthday celebration for the time being.
Trolley Talk 30th March, 2020 – The Prime Minister announces Stage 3 restrictions to combat Coronavirus; there are only four reasons to leave home – food shopping; medical care or compassionate needs; exercise, and work or study. I only shop once a week and early in the morning, during the ‘seniors’ hour; the supermarket is eerily empty, and I begin to wear disposable gloves; the metal trolleys wait to be released from their imposed lockdown. I am concerned for my Italian relatives, as the latest news from Italy is dire: “On March 9, Italy became the first democratic country since the Second World War to impose a nationwide lockdown.” (TIME Magazine, Sangsuk Silvia Kang, 20/2/20).
Studying 6th April, 2020 – My sixth unit, “The Photo Essay”, is online for me to start, and this will fill in my time productively. My study is untidy, but there is sunlight and a garden view, and I lose myself for hours in this environment during the imposed lockdown (is 4 pm too early for a glass of wine?). I can also look at my wall map and fantasize about the travelling I have done, and will do, in the future. “Exercise and rest aid in keeping online students engaged” (Herald Sun headline,18/4/20).
Easter Sunday 12th April, 2020 – The chocolate Easter bunnies wait like miniature sentinels to be delivered to their little friends, and there won’t be an Easter egg hunt in my backyard like every other year. My children send me photos of the grandchildren in their homes and I smile when I notice that their parents have copied our tradition of ‘pretend’ bunny footprints, dabbed with flour, all over their floors. I am optimistic that the Coronavirus will end one of these days, but it is the uncertainty about how long it will last that worries me.
Nature’s Jewels – I walk every day, and nature has a wonderful way of uplifting my spirit; the cockatoos have not heard of the rule of ‘socially distancing’, and the timing was perfect, as they scattered in every direction after this photo was taken. The blushing bottlebrushes brighten my day, and the blossoms generously share their precious nectar with the buzzing bees, and clouds look like crashing surf waves in the sky.
My Neighbourhood 25th April, 2020 – The normal landscape is no more – footpath art gets the message across; the silence is deafening at an empty playground, and a moving tribute for Anzac Day veterans is proudly displayed. My daily walks have opened my eyes to the changes in our lives due to the Coronavirus. Mixed messages regarding the isolation rules by the Prime Minister on the one hand, and the Victorian Premier on the other, cause anxiety amongst the population.
Cooking – The enticing aromas in my kitchen bring back nostalgic memories of my mother’s (Maria’s) recipes, and, even though she only attended three years of primary school tuition in Italy, she wrote down her recipes for me, which I treasure. Batches of Bolognese sauce, lasagne (our favourite), and ‘pizzelle’ (waffles), are now in the freezer until my family and I can share a meal again together. Cooking helps distract me from the emotional and sad statistics of the Coronavirus, which continually bombard the news.
Eleven Weeks On 11th May, 2020 – My concern that I had been in northern Italy urges me to ring the Coronavirus Hotline. I am asked to answer ten questions about my health (one of which was: “Do you have a fever?”). As I answered “No” to all of the questions, I am told that I have “nothing to worry about” regarding the virus; I am very relieved, and I inform my family of the conversation. On 11th May, the Premier announces that from the next day, we can get together with up to five family members or friends, and I breathe a sigh of relief that life will eventually get back to our ‘normal’ routine.