IT SEEMS LIKE YEARS SINCE IT’S BEEN CLEAR

Part 13 … the penultimate … of
THE YEAR OF LIVING COVID-ANGEROUSLY

It’s rainy and damp. The garden is getting a slow start … and we wonder what kind of growing season it will be. In France, grape vines have been hurt by recent below freezing temperatures … and we had one or two below 0° F nights, too. The flowers on our apple and plum and apricot trees are still there, still white or pale pink … only time will tell. Last year, those beautiful blossoms were destroyed by some late snow. If this is a new trend, we might need to keep some insulating wrap in our shed to protect future fruit.

David planted tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers. Fava beans are flowering, peas are sprouting, potatoes are poking leaves through the soil …

I baked more whole wheat sourdough. It might not be as round … as boule-esque … as the online photos, but it’s a work-in-progress. An absolutely DELICIOUS work-in-progress.

Pilates and zumba are scheduled to re-start … in the parking lot of the gym There was a special open house with a jumble of a lesson … everybody was excited to see one another in person.

As we got home from that session … it arrived. The SMS I’d been anxious to receive. David got one, too. It was the codice we needed to make an appointment for our vaccination.

I took both our phones upstairs (where our internet signal was stronger) and went to the website. Click, click … I picked an appointment at Careggi, the big hospital in Florence (since our local hospital had no availability). Click … the first date available (12 days away). Click … not too early in the morning (it’s an hour drive, and I’ve read a good night’s sleep can make vaccinations more effective). Click … confirmed. Screenshot! There’s a Consent Form that needs to be printed, completed, signed, brought. It says Pfizer. And the second dose date is already reserved … same bat time, same bat channel.

I do the same for David. His appointment is 5 minutes after mine.

It says to arrive 10 minutes early. Only ten … we’ve been waiting a few months. And don’t be late, it warned.

Then I WhatsApped an image of our reservations to the pulmonologist. I ask if there is anything else … just to be sure I’m not overlooking some language, not misinterpreting a message. He says just bring our IDs. I reply, GRAZIE MILLE (emphasis in original).

I recommended that we not tell anyone. Our American friends will be happy and glad it’s Pfizer, but our Italian friends might think we are jumping ahead of our age group or looking for priority or expecting a “better” vaccine. After the 2nd dose, we’ll mention it. When asked. I wonder how I’ll feel … not just the side effects, but two weeks later when I can say “fully vaccinated” and relax. Start to relax. Think about … not sure what I’ll think about.

I set the wake-up alarm for the two dates. I looked up the address on Google Maps, but it’s confusing … the form shows a street address AND a building name, but they are in different locations. Probably a 10-minute walk, but we wanted to be on time. And were warned not to be late.

Finally, our appointments were a couple days away. I decided to double-check whether we were to go to the main entrance of Careggi or the auditorium (across the street). But there was a statement that left me confused … and I quietly panicked that we didn’t have all the necessary paperwork. After a few minutes of alternating between hyperventilating and not breathing at all, I clicked, clicked, clicked onto the website … and realized that they wanted the self-certificate I had already printed.

I barely slept Friday night.

We got to the auditorium, following the others walking toward the group. It was about 10.30 … 40 minutes before my “arrive 10 minutes early” instruction. We got into the line that snaked up and back and into the building. Masked people were chatting and, presumably, smiling … there was a light, friendly mood. Maybe it was a societal sigh of relief.

Everybody held the same confirmation page, tucked into the same slim plastic sleeve we had. As folks approached, the newcomers asked everyone’s appointment time … and we collectively hurried those with earlier appointments toward the front. Encouraging cutting in line! We chatted with the man who had 11.17 and the woman at 11.20. At the turn, a nurse looked at our papers. “Los Angeles! Magari,” she said when she noticed my place of birth. She gave David permission, with a time of 11.24, to stay with me. At the door, a tall man dispersed gel and took our temperatures. He smiled at David, commenting, “Bel uomo grande” and he did that sturdy shoulder shrug. It was our turn to go inside … to the right, he said.

We got to a man at a little table full of papers. He checked our forms … and changed our return date from June 5 to June 26 … since last Wednesday, he said, the new rule about 2nd doses. I was disappointed, but so glad we were getting Pfizer, I didn’t … couldn’t … complain. He motioned us down the hall, where a nurse pointed to an area with well-spaced chairs.

Within a few moments, we went into a doctor’s office. She asked what David’s fragilità elevata was … heart and lungs, I answered. And yours, she asked, turning to me. Migraines. Do either of you have any allergies? “Si,” we answered … ok, then after the shots, you will wait 30 minutes, rather than 15. Va bene. She had us sign the forms, handed us each a little card, and sent us to the next stop.

We continued down the hall to a waiting area much like the first … another nurse told us to wait. But it wasn’t long before we were called into the shot spot.

We handed the little cards to the woman. These you will use to register after your shots, she explained … and be sure to bring them with you for your 2nd dose. I sat in the official chair. She wiped my arm with cool alcohol … then it was over. Really? I didn’t feel the shot. I didn’t feel the medicine. Wow!

Next up, David.

We walked to the registration area where the woman quickly typed in our information. The waiting area is there, she pointed.

The big clock on the wall said 11.32 … we’ll leave after 12.00, David said. I was impressed with Italy’s uncharacteristic efficiency. We got our shots … On. Time.

After 15–20 minutes, as one of the nurses walked through our group, I motioned her to come over. “I think I might have a very small headache.” Ok, venga con me. Hai mangiato qualcosa? (Have you eaten anything?, she asked.) No. (I didn’t tell her I’d been too nervous/stressed/excited to eat.) Down a few hallways full of people, we got to a room where a woman at a desk was reading a catalogue, while a patient sat in a big chair. Sit here, she said … do you want some water? Sì. I took out some candied ginger (my sugar) and a few walnuts (my protein). As I waited, a young man with asthma came in, too. She used the pulse oximeter and took my blood pressure (it’s usually low, I explained). All my numbers were normal … I’m cleared to leave.

I found my way back to David … and we made our way outside. Into the fresh air.

That evening, my arm was a little sore. And a little sore the next morning, but much less than after my recent tetanus shot (when symptoms lasted a week). By that evening, it was fine. I know side effects are more likely after the 2nd dose …

More friends are saying they have an appointment for a vaccination. Appointment. The Linda was proactive … we are several weeks ahead of them. I do say we got Pfizer.

Talk of a Covid green pass for travel is getting louder in the E.U. I keep my eyes open for stories … for us (my cousin Jodi is getting married in Florida in September) and for friends, Jeff and Susan (he spends many hours a year cycling on the mountains of Italy).

The dreary weather continues … and though it doesn’t rain every day, the sky is perpetually filled with 50 shades of gray clouds. It makes dinner at our favorite local restaurant, sitting in the piazza, impossible … until a Sunday when some blue clouds appear.

I put on makeup … ! … and high heels … !! The menu has familiar favorites and tempting newcomers. We opt for some of both. The star of the evening was the new Gnudi con Blù e Bufalo. Tender and light as clouds, the green globes of minced spinach were bathed in a balanced blend of gorgonzola and mozzarella that lingered on the tongue. Seems I’ll have to write a story about that meal …

The C.D.C. says that fomites are no longer a risk … just aerosols. Ah, aerosols … that’s been my mantra ever since Barbara alerted me in March 2020! But I will continue to wash my hands as soon as I get home. There’s a little Monk in all of us.

And in our new-found confidence, we made airline reservations for a two-city trip to Jodi’s wedding and then my HS reunion in L.A.

I decided what cake to make for David’s upcoming birthday. Back in the day, I created an indulgent cake called “Sodom & Gomorrah” … two sins of chocolate mousse on cheesecake. Friends still remember it. Right David? Right Hillary? But I no longer make that mousse because it has raw eggs. So I re-created it … reversed … a layer of brownie topped with a layer of chocolate-swirl cheese cake. It’s a keeper!

… and so it goes …

BUTTERY PEACH CAKE

4 oz. butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1–½ tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 or 5 peaches, cut into quarters

- Preheat the oven to 350° F (170° C). Butter and flour a 9-inch round pan.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter, then add the sugar. Mix until well blended … 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the egg and vanilla, blending well.
- Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan.
- Arrange the peach pieces in concentric circles.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes, until done.
- Serve at any temperature.
Enjoy!

Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.