JUNE IS BUSTING OUT ALL OVER … SORT OF

Part 6 of
THE YEAR OF LIVING COVID-ANGEROUSLY

Petra and I get together for lunch at my house every so often, sitting under the big gelso tree on sunny summery days. And the night it re-opened, we went to OSTERIA PER BACCO, a local trattoria where the owners … the husband-maître d’ and wife-chef … have become friends. Tables are set apart, the staff wears masks and gloves. Diners are happy, smiling, nodding at one another … everyone’s mask sits, like part of the place setting, nearby. The tuna tartare burger served with guacamole, una novità, is my new favorite dish!

I designed an irrigation system for the garden, and Paolo was nice enough to install it for me. It’s my surprise for David … less time watering = more time golfing. Also, it saves water and prevents leaves from burning in the hot sun. Win-win-win. Paolo even adds a drip line to the strawberry plants that ring our paved parking area.

The cherries were ready … and I harvested them immediately, before the birds eat them all. And bought a cherry-picker.

The kitties and I celebrated Bailame’s birthday. And before the month ends, it’s Allegra’s turn for a party.

There are peaceful marches for Black Lives Matter all over America. As Black people speak out, I listen … as historical stories are posted and published, I read. My quality education and B.A., full of note-taking and good grades, was missing those chapters. I’m sad it took so long for me to learn …

It seems like David might actually be able to use his return ticket. I am cautiously optimistic.

A week before his scheduled return, I go to the carabinieri. Both Giovanna and Petra think they would have information since they would be enforcing the quarantine. I buzz at the front door … and a man responds. “The great and powerful Oz cannot see you now.” He says to go to ASL (the health office) around the corner.

They are still open … I pulled a number to see an administrator. There are a few people waiting for the nurse. And me. I hover … hoping to see my friend, Serenella. When a woman appears, she asks if I am here to see a nurse or have an appointment. No, I have a question. She shrugs, and goes back into her office. A few moments later, she and a colleague come over. I ask my question … they exchange “do you know?, I don’t know” looks … they smile … and the woman says they have no idea. We’re the last to know these things, the colleague says. The regional office in the next town might know, ask there. Is it the building with the fountain?, I ask. No, further down that street. Oh yes, I say, up the stairs. Sì sì sì.

The Linda has their phone number.

My notes show they are closed.

Monday morning, I called. The message says the phone is answered only on Tuesday mornings. Your tax dollars at work. I think of all the senior partners during my legal career who would have a coronary at that idea …

I send a message to Serenella … and within a few minutes she gives me a name and phone number. I call, I explain. He says I need to call Regione Toscana. (Officer Krupke, you’re really a square / This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s chair.) Knowing that ASL has numerous offices, I ask for that specific phone number. A moment later, I heard a woman say “how can I help you?”. Surprised, I told her David’s situation. 14-day quarantine … at home … separate bedroom and, preferably, separate bathroom … keep the windows open as much as possible … he must stay in the house and private garden only … masks when we are in the same room … no quarantine for me … yes, I can go to the airport in a mask … there’s an online form that he must fill-out and submit the day he gets home … no nasal swab test, but if he wants one, he’d need to talk with our doctor.

A real quarantine. There is no cheating. Italy takes this seriously … and the carabinieri might come by and check to make sure David is there. And traveling internationally, it’s difficult to fly under the radar. There will be multiple passport checks and screenings in three airports and two airplanes. I get the woman’s name and phone numbers … and within the hour, she has forwarded the link with the form.

I told David the details that afternoon, his morning.

Our hillside of lavender is in full bloom. The air is perfumed, and the purple is vibrant against the slim sage-colored stalks … inviting you to linger and inhale slowly. And I am not the only one to notice … dozens of butterflies appear, flittering and fluttering among the foliage.

It’s June 15th. The EU borders are set to re-open … but I’ll believe it when I see it. But open they did.

Paolo mowed the lawn again … Dora came by, and we thoroughly cleaned the house.

David’s new departure date is June 18 … landing in Munich, then Florence on the 19th. There is regional nervousness because a woman flew from Brazil to Amsterdam to Florence … sick with Covid, undetected. Then Portugal, which proudly opened its borders, closed them on Tuesday. The numbers in the USA were rising, and the EU … which sacrificed so much … could easily say non, nein, nee. I held my breath. Silently.

David sent a WhatsApp message that he had checked in at LAX. I had requested flight notifications on the Lufthansa app … a departure notice appeared. A breath.

Hours later, a LH message appeared that the flight had landed in Munich.

David called me when they were about to board the second and final leg … a one-hour flight to Florence. My drive is about 50 minutes.

The LH pop-up appeared. The plane had landed in Florence. Exhaling.

FLR is a delightfully small airport. I parked illegally … 50 feet from the arrival doors … and sent a WhatsApp message.

Lots of passengers left the terminal… finally David! Since it was a few months after his knee surgery, he had opted for the convenience of a wheelchair. One guy pushing, another with luggage.

I love his long quarantine hair, gray and wavy [heart].

Breathing!

As we head home, he tells me that he filled out paperwork at the airport and got a page with instructions saying he had to call a special number as soon as he got home … and didn’t think he needed to go online. The outgoing message said the office was open Monday through Friday 9.00 to 1.00. It’s Friday afternoon. So on Monday, he called … and the woman said he needed to do the online form. Couldn’t, shouldn’t the airport papers simply say “do the online form” — why make a phone call … just to hear a woman say “do the online form.” (It’s part of the charm.)

And it’s finally time for us to pick out our new electric car. David says get … turquoise.

… and so it goes …

APRICOT AND HONEY CAKE

3 oz. butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Grated peel from 1 lemon
2–¼ cup flour
1–½ tsp. baking powder
8–10 apricots, halved
¼ cup honey

- Preheat the oven to 350° F (170° C). Butter and flour a 9-inch round pan.
- In a large bowl, mix sugar and eggs until very well blended … 2 to 3 minutes.
- Mix in the melted butter … incorporate well.
- Stir in the flour and baking powder until it is a creamy, thick batter.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan.
- Place the apricots, cut side down, onto the batter.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes, until done.
- When the cake is almost ready, heat the honey in a small saucepan.
- After 5 minutes, remove the sides of the pan.
- With a pastry brush, brush the warm honey on top and sides of the cake.
- Serve at any temperature.
Enjoy!

Life … and cooking … in the Tuscan countryside.