Mountains Beyond Mountains

Today I did my periodic shuffle through the lone sock bag. The verdict: ten matches and 26 singles. It is possible that our family may have too many different types of socks. We’ve gotten nearly all of them as gifts, though, so I can’t complain. But my children (and occasionally myself) are sometimes known to run about wearing mismatched socks.

Being so peripatetic has its poignancies. There’s something to miss about everywhere we’ve lived. The thing I miss about Florence is the constant unspoken but keenly felt internal nudge to dress yourself up so you can walk out on the streets and do your part to make the city a little more beautiful. Saluzzo is a little like that too, especially with the beautiful new Piazza, complete with several blocks of granite-paved sidewalk and streets. But down here in the backwoods of Cuneo, there’s not so much motivation. I confess to going to Auchan last night in my (most stylish, of course) pajama bottoms. The worst thing? I didn’t even stick out.

We were at Auchan (for those of you living in areas ungraced by Auchan, think Superwalmart) to buy a lengthy list of school supplies for Axa. The list included, but was not limited to two sets of fat markers, one set of skinny markers, pencils, sharpener and eraser, notepad with 10 cm squares (yes, squares. I still don’t understand why it’s virtually impossible to buy paper with lines going only one way here), two pencil cases, crayons, liquid soap, towel and kleenex. That’s off the top of my head. This may be a normal preschool shopping list. I wouldn’t know. We were instructed to write her name on everything, including each and every crayon. We’d previously seen a large area of the store dedicated to bins of school supplies, so I assumed it would be a quick and painless trip. Of course, I was wrong.

We sifted through mounds of pencil cases and backpacks, most of them splashed all over with twaddly cartoon Tweeties, Betty Boops, and even worse. My heart sank. To the injury of my child going to school, were we to add the insult of her going bedecked in cartoon paraphernalia? I’ve assiduously guarded my house during the past five years against things like singing vegetables and yellow sponges. (And if you call me a fanatic, I’ll call you an accomplice to the Decline of Western Civilisation. And we wouldn’t want it to come to that, would we?) I briefly considered going home (it was now approaching 9 p.m.) and sewing her something that night to hold all the art supplies, but stumbled against the problems of lack of sewing machine, thread, fabric, and other essentials, and not having seen the above in any store here since the open air market last Saturday in Saluzzo.

Finally, I reached the bottom of the pencil case pile, and triumphantly held up a plain, unadorned purple pencil case. Saved.

With a husband now working in Corporate Italia (slightly different connotations from Corporate America) and a daughter in the Italian school system, I find myself full throttle in the race to maintain identity and individual values. It’s true wherever you live. The battles have different fronts, but the war rages on. And there may be debate about whether the earth is getting warmer, but there’s no denying that it is shrinking.