John M. Viola, Brooklyn:
Our work was heating up as winter began to thaw. The Italian American Podcast was in full swing, and filming of our mini-documentary series, “Greetings from Italian America”, would soon take us to the Big Easy. As Rossella Rago and I were about to depart for a weekend in New Orleans, I was sure the coronavirus was nothing more than a nasty version of the flu that would pass in a matter of weeks. By the time we touched down back in NYC three and a half days later, I realized that the drive from the airport would be the last I’d see of the”outside world” for quite a while.
All I know is that this past two weeks have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My wife and I have barely left the house, but for a few trips to the grocery store (masks on, and heavy disinfectant afterwards) or short walks for our bulldog, Rocco. I find myself calling friends and family more, whereas before I was often too busy to reply to most text messages, let alone answer my phone. I spoke with my grandparents on FaceTime for the first time. It was actually pretty wonderful. Just a little catch up that I often think about doing anyway, but never feel the urgency. They told me this whole thing reminded them of their childhoods during the end of the Great Depression and the Second World War. In some weird way I understood.
I’m learning things about myself too. I never washed my hands enough, I guess, because I quickly realized I’m allergic to the hand soap my wife buys! Mea culpa…that’s a life lesson that I’ll take out of this. The hardest thing is that, as we’re seeing to such deadly effect in Italy, this devious virus feeds off the thing we hold most dear… family.
“I was so unaware of how fragile the entire world is. I will never again take for granted a hug or a Sunday dinner spent with my family. I will never again leave something ‘until tomorrow’ if I can help it,” –Rossella Rago, Brooklyn
I don’t miss much else about real life I guess…just family, and the friends that are like family. I’ve always said “famiglia is all that matters.” I guess it’s nice to see that I actually meant it.
Felicia LaLomia, Long Island:
It’s not easy to imagine that Washington Square Park isn’t full of its usual street performers, playing classical music or jazz for the people sunning on the patches of grass, or that Mulberry Street isn’t packed with tourists and locals alike, rushing in and out of shops and dodging the peanut carts giving off sweet aromas.
Arthur Avenue, with Easter a few weeks away, is hushed and empty. The shop windows are vacant, the streets quiet, the trains deserted. But here we are, separated but together, growing more resilient with every day that passes.
Pat O’Boyle, North Arlington, New Jersey:
When we overcome this, I will leave my house and fa ‘a spesa. That’s something I really miss.