Giorgia Ester Serra (a Philosophy graduate, profession screenwriter) gifts us with her story as a lunàdiga. A story that unravels in the nest of the most intimate family affections (her grandparents’ country house) and opens up to the observation of nature, with its simple rhythms of birth, care and weaning of ‘non-humans’, thus questioning schemes and beliefs on the absolute duties of parenthood.
In the countryside you are always ten years behind.
When I woke up at my grandparents’ house, my breath produced “tiny droplets” and the blankets were so heavy that I felt like having a thin mattress on top of me. I would sneak out of that sandwich-bed of which I had been the filling during the night, wrapping myself in a floral robe and running down the stairs to take refuge in the warmth of the kitchen. Grandma had already put the milk on the stove and the usual dreadful cookies were awaiting for me on the table. Sometimes I still dream of them, in my worst nightmares: those notched squares of flour and god knows what else, with their soapy flavor and slimy texture. They were the broken ones that my grandmother bought at the local bakery, sold in large three-kilogram packages and which lasted for weeks.
On those bloody cold, dirty, damp, lowland mornings, I loved to stand at the kitchen window overlooking the canopy under which my grandfather kept his tractor. Every year, between the beams and the green wavy tiles that covered the structure, a family of swallows proliferated consistently. I remember standing there with a cup of hot and fat milk in my hands following the syncopated rhythm of those big yellow little mouths that opened wide like calla lilies from the shell-nest clung to the top. I could see the coming and going of adult swallows bringing breakfasts, lunches and dinners to those capricious beaks. I thought I had been like that too and I was happy that my hunger was no longer dependent on someone else: often, as soon as Grandma left, I would take an egg from the kitchen pot, a yellow butter nut from the fridge, and make myself a fried egg – leaving those awful, stale cookies to their fate. I felt like someone not needing anyone, who took what she wanted, not what adults gave her. I was six years old and had already run away from home twice, or rather, I had left: My Sailor Moon backpack on my shoulders, equipped with a chocolate egg and the desire to fly away.
That’s how I spent my autumn mornings. Before I went to school, I would look out the window and every day I would see the progress of the swallows – less and less mangy, more and more independent day after day. After two weeks, they were already flying around the nest, making strange and awkward races between them. I thought of my escapes, my departures, always awkward and uncertain and of my races to return home, with my shadow turning into a black monster to escape from.
After a month, only a couple of swallows remained under the roof. There was no more play, no more tantrums, just a great peacefulness. And, as I struggled to pull down the last softened cookie left at the bottom of the large package, I imagined all those baby birds who, in total control of their volatile faculties, made a twirl around the country’s bell tower and then scattered around the world like fireworks. I dreamed of it for myself and I dreamed of it for so long, even too long.
I have never accepted this perverse thing about humans wanting to keep their children in their wombs for twenty-odd years. Then I realized that it was more of an Italian habit and I wished I had been born elsewhere – where at eighteen, like my friend Anaïs, parents kick you out to study, to learn.
I, on the other hand, the unwanted daughter who survived five threatened miscarriages, have always been a miracle to be kept close to, like a holy picture on the bedside table, loaded with all the responsibility of the good omen, of the need that others had for me: like baby swallows who, from being fed, soon find themselves having to provide food for others, without being taught how to use their wings for fear that they would do and fly away.
I do not believe there are faults in this game of satisfied or suffocated needs, but there are beliefs, patterns – to which we are often subjected without doubts or questions – that entrap individualities in family ties, in the sense of gratitude for the “gift of life”, in the duty of care. I have always lived these patterns as a cage, made of words but tremendously sticky – like a bubble from which you can get out but which leaves you its gluey pieces all over you, wherever you will go. There is no escape.
I wish I had been born a swallow and I wish, somehow, my mother had asked me first – what I wanted to be. That’s why I cannot give birth to a human who feels being fish or ant, tree or fire, wind or scent.
Giorgia Ester Serra