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In A Pickle  

An Italian COVID adventure

Sonia Maglio Gudwer adjusted her mask and scarf, took a deep breath and stepped into the throng flowing through the streets of Rome.

She was on a mission, a 500-metre mission, to buy groceries in a country that had been slammed shut by COVID-19.

Police and soldiers watched to make sure she didn’t go 501 metres.

She went to her native Italy in February to visit her son and teach at a private university in Rome. A few weeks later, the country went into lockdown as COVID-19 cases soared.

The local news reports about the pandemic weren’t that negative, however, Sonia received alarming calls from her daughter in the U.S., who was worried she’d never see her mother again. 

Although Sonia took the usual precautions of frequently washing her hands and wearing a mask in crowded public spaces, she also took everything in stride once the hype settled.

Italians are easygoing, and physical distancing was the hardest thing for them to deal with. They were used to walking arm in arm, hugging and kissing. 

Sonia was alone in her apartment for months and ran around the room for exercise, but went outside to watch people play ping pong, neighbour to neighbour across balconies. 

In the evenings, everyone went onto their patios to cheer and listen to various musicians playing electric guitars while singing folk songs, amplified by large speakers. 

They made the best of a critical situation. 

When Sonia eventually ventured out, the police asked her name, where she lived, where she was going and when she planned on being home again.

On her rare outings, Sonia walked through the breath-taking indoor gardens of the Basilica of St. John in Lateran. There, she prayed and meditated and later shared her spiritual beliefs with the soldiers.

They were lonely too, it seemed to Sonia, as they greeted her when they saw her coming and engaged the older woman in conversation, curious to know why she appeared so calm and cheerful. 

It intrigued one young soldier that Sonia personified spirituality and serenity. Their discussions would continue over the months, and the kindly mamma would leave a big impression on the soldier and his coworkers.  

In time, the restrictions loosened and Sonia was free to visit her son. She also visited ancient ruins and had an epiphany that whatever grandiose empires we may build, we may not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of our labours. 

The time finally came when she was cleared to fly home, but she was in a bit of a pickle when the airline changed the dates on three occasions. 

Sonia let out a sigh of relief, when, at long last, she crossed the threshold of her own Little Italy inside her Kelowna condo.  

The telephone jangled and shook her out of her reverie. Her aging mother was on the other end, welcoming her home.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]



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