For this installment of “A Life in the Day of”, we travel to Brussels to meet Eleonora, woman of many hats, fellow Italian and blogger at “ottominuti“. We chose to publish her contribution during our week dedicated to all things “slow and chill” because, in the middle of a day (and a life) punctuated by the demands of children and long to do lists, Eleonora finds moments, sometimes fleeting, of clarity and, above all, displays an ability to stop the madness and savour the chill.
On lucky days I have the privilege of waking up naturally, shortly before the alarm radio thing starts reading the Italian papers just above my ears, thanks to the speaker my husband hang in a corner, a few days after we moved in. He thinks it’s his way of cherishing me, waking me up with my homeland news. I don’t dare telling him that the baritone voice entering our bedroom every morning belongs to a tall, once curly-haired guy I kissed and ate ice-cream with in the mid-90s. I had actually forgotten about him, for ours was an incredibly short fling that blossomed and withered in the space of two weeks but when I heard his name on the radio, half-asleep, it all came back. Thank you husband, for giving me back a piece of my teenage years I had left somewhere else.
My Proustian wanderings don’t last long, because my boys – first one, then the other – bring me back to reality: one sock is MIA, the polo shirt is too tight at the neck, we’re out of fruit juice and I somehow forgot to buy bread yesterday. I don’t have much time to think it through as I’ve entered the emergency phase of my day, the one where the only goal is survival, and getting to school before 9.
As in one of those action movies where everything happens but in the end the hero always gets his way, I stumble and totter and scream and run around as a headless chicken for a whole twenty minutes but I always end up at the wheel of my car, ready for yet another school run. I drive and look at the time. All the time. I don’t think anything will happen if we turn up late for kindergarten but I know the English teacher will look down on me, and the idea bothers me. We get in front of the school by 8.58 and I am relieved when I see I am not last: the Indian super bright kid is walking briskly with his father, also looking down at his watch.
I accompany the children to class, we kiss a few too many times, I run down the stairs, close the door and here I am. Free. For the next 7 hours. I go back to the car and choose the soundtrack of the day. It’s Carla Bruni again and I play it so loud my ears hurt and I fear I might become partially deaf – but people say I already am so it doesn’t matter. I am a selective listener, actually. Men do that all the time. I switch on my hearing when there is something worthy of it.
My phone starts beeping with a series of different beeps. One for Facebook messages; one for Twitter update; one for WordPress notifications; one for Whatsapp messages a vibration for emails and yet another sound for text messages. I constantly wonder why, why on earth have I activated all this stuff. I put my headset on and start making calls, it eases my time in traffic: the electrician who left in a hurry last week, will he come back? The friend in distress because of the high turn-over rate of her housekeepers, what’s wrong with her? The Husband who wants to know if I am keeping track of the mail and answering invitations properly (No, I am not). By the time I get half a mile from my place I am already mentally worn out. There’s only one cure for this ailment: I continue straight past my house and call my friend F. She’s still in her dressing gown and I wonder if she’s up for a coffee together. “When?”, she asks. “Now?”, I reply, only half embarrassed at the fact that I am already there. Our coffee and 20 minutes chat are my personal morning Savasana relaxation. It clears my mind, and gives me a kick for the day. I go back home, sit in front of my computer and finally have a proper breakfast: a smoothie and a few dried mango slices. I start reading papers, and blogs, and everything I like.
I keep a list of things I hear and see and that come to my mind while running everyday’s errands because I want to remember those moments of enlightenment and write about them but most of the times the few words scribbled while standing in front of the poultry section at the supermarket aren’t enough to remind me of the emotions behind them, 24 hours later. Part of my best moments are lost like this, between the grocery shopping and the dry cleaner. What’s left is what I am writing. I guess we all lose a part of our best selves while trying to make it to the end of the day.
It’s three o’clock, I forgot to have lunch and the kids will be home soon. I grab three oat crackers, add some prosciutto and bring them to my bedroom as I change into playground clothes (ankle-length straight jeans, V-neck t-shirt, loose cardigan and ballerinas). It’ s warm outside, the perfect night to go have dinner on a terrace and enjoy the warm breeze. I call the babysitter.
At three-thirty the kids are back, ready to put their helmets back on, grab their swords and start their afternoon medieval war. I take them to the playground as they are: school uniforms, knight’s helmets and swords. While they climb the wooden castle and run all around it, I check my phone and start answering the morning’s messages. Some other mothers look at me: maybe I should stand next to the slide, ready to clap at my sons anytime they get safely down but I end up observing people instead. Dissecting their looks, their language, their gestures and imagining what’s behind all that. Their story.
I am lost in my thoughts when I realize it’s time to go home. I give the kids a bath, put them in their PJs and send them to watch the Disney channel while their dinner gets ready. Two soft-boiled eggs and a cup of broccoli later they are sound asleep and my night can start. I call a couple of friends who say they will join us later for drinks . My husband wants to try the new Japanese eatery everybody is talking about. It’s a 15 minutes walk from our place, it’s still bright outside, we enjoy our stroll. I order gyozas and a salmon salad. Our friends arrive, we order another Sapporo and start chatting. We discuss our time, what we would change, what we would like to stay the same. Remaking the world brings us quickly to midnight. We leave in a hurry, anxious to get our 7 hours sleep. It’s half past midnight when I put my phone on flight mode. I have a new WordPress notification but that can wait until tomorrow.
A bit of background:
Eleonora happened on C&S through my former (and now defunct) blog “The Accidental Chef” and she kept on reading until she found her way to our new venture. And she left a sweet comment that just about lifted my Saturday morning. An e-mail correspondence ensued in which we found we had more in common than just being Italian.
Eleonora is a financial analyst turned journalist turned mom turned writer.
An emigrant at heart, she feels a stranger everywhere but in airports. She speaks Italian with her children, French with the husband and English with most of the people she likes. Confused and lost in translation, in her blog “ottominuti“, Eleonora writes about her hopes to find a way to cope with the multiple lives the average woman has to compress into one.