I’m sitting in the kitchen shelling broad beans. It’s a rainy afternoon, and I’m beside the open door to the interior courtyard at Via Romagna 14. We’re on the third floor, so we’re sort of in the middle of this nineteenth century building. I listen to the rain, and the cool air it brings, and the occasional drift of raindrops. Beside me the mackerel cools in its bath of milk. I’m making fish cakes for tea. I’ve just watched Vittorio and the children head east along Bon Compagni for their final swimming class. It’s a test today, though I told Jacobo he should enjoy it, and make sure he has enough time to muck about. He tells me he won’t be able to do that, because it’s test day, Mummy. An hour ago I ran down to the deli on Via Sicilia for potatoes. The old man who runs it, knows me, and though my Italian is still rubbish, we manage to share shock at the thunderstorm, and the fact that this morning was gorgeous. I tell him we’re hoping to go to Civita di Bagnoregio for my birthday, he smiles, hands me my change and tells me it’s beautiful. These are days of endings, and I drink in the quiet, steadying myself with the peeling of potatoes. What makes a place, and our connection to it? For me, this kitchen, whose sunshine is a surprise, given that we are half way down a 19th century well, is its quietness, made tangible by its cacophony of minor sounds – the birds (where are they?), the sound of the bed and breakfast downstairs putting away their cutlery, someone on the ground floor coughing. And so when I sit here by the window, it is in a sort of calm, as if the city holds me – I can hear it, and I know I’m in the middle of it, but it seems far away. I look up and see a single pair of black socks swaying in the breeze across from our apartment.
Yesterday, Jacobo has his Recita (you say RE-CHI-TÁ). Since he first came home in April singing Carciofi Mystero (the mysterious artichoke), he has been enchanted by his summer show. His teacher, the very wonderful Antonella Pompa, is close to retirement. She’s grounded and wise, and got her class of 17 eight and nine year olds to tell an elaborate story, with musical numbers, and singing, and choreography. Sitting watching my son speak fluent Italian, and rock on down with his class mates, I am choked up with I don’t know what – his presence, our imminent departure, or the simple wonder of being a mother, and seeing your child full of pleasure.
And here come the children, hungry from swimming, throwing down their bags. I put on the water for the broad beans, which will turn an extraordinary pink by the time they’re tender, and the children are sulking at their presence on their plates. And whilst they drown fish cakes in ketchup, and correct my Italian, outside two black socks still move in the afternoon breeze.