A paramedic at a tent set up by the Italian Civil Protection agency outside the emergency ward of a hospital in Northern Italy on Feb. 27, 2020. Italy has taken strong measures to try and contain the coronavirus’ spread. (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP)
Photo: Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP
Photo: Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP

Opinion: A Georgian in Italy: ‘I stay at home’

When I was a kid growing up in Atlanta, on rainy afternoons, or on those crazy heatwave days in the summer, I’d stay at home and imagine that my house was a spaceship hurtling through the cosmos, destination unknown.

Now here we are. I’m in Italy, with a wife and two kids of my own, hurtling through the most important month-long stretch in modern history.

Home. In quarantine, this is our spaceship. Sometimes we venture out, like those astronauts on a spacewalk aiming to fix some odd but crucial problem on the International Space Station. They risk everything with their every tiniest gesture. We still have a little room to breathe, here. We’re allowed to walk down the street to get groceries. And the groceries still have their shelves fully stocked. But all the restaurants, pizzerias and gelaterias are closed. Shopping is out of the question, simply because the shops are shut. And if you go out, you have to bring a sort of permission slip with you now, declaring where you are going, and why.

Any freedom-loving citizen of a Western democracy would reject the idea out of hand. I don’t need to carry around a permission slip to walk down the street! Our forefathers and foremothers gave their lives for our freedom to do what we want, when we want! What kind of whacked out movie is this?

It’s science fiction. Actually, science non-fiction.

So I carry my permission slip, and not only am I not ashamed, but I expect everyone else to darn well carry their permission slip, too. If you’re not going somewhere, then stay at home! It’s our only hope, Obi-wan Kenobi.

Home is our spaceship, and as we’ve seen in those space movies of a certain mood, things can get mighty cramped when you’re in a little tin box sailing through the void.

We try, therefore, to set up two things:

1. Routines.

2. Breaks in the routines. Little surprises.

We’re only days into this weeks-long journey but we know that both of the above are utterly crucial in order to reach a safe haven at our as-yet-unseen destination.

First of all, routines give us a groundwork, milestones to look forward to throughout the day. And then the little surprises have the opposite effect. They make us forget that we’re on a routine which is supposed to make us forget that the world has suddenly been turned upside-down. Then it’s good to get back to the routine again. So somebody bakes a cake. Somebody draws a funny picture. Somebody puts on a playlist that we haven’t listened to in years. Somebody smiles, takes a deep breath, and says “alright” when they might have gotten upset, in a non-science non-fiction setting.

Home is where the heart is, home is where you make it, home is where your books are, home is where you don’t need a permission slip.

And home is where, in quiet moments, you peer out into the void, searching for a little blue dot, a glimpse, even millions of miles away, of your new home. Though that distant dreamlike destination is actually right here, under your very feet, in a dream of the future, when all of this is over.

Alex Jones, a graduate of the University of Georgia, lives with his family in Northern Italy where he works as a teacher, actor and translator.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.