One thing I have learned a lot about over the past year is that Italians do community they way they do pasta: effortlessly, enthusiastically, and often. It’s both one of the most daunting and one of the most delightful aspects of life here.
The above picture I snapped at yesterday’s neighborhood Carnevale parade isn’t likely to win any photography awards. In fact, I don’t even recognize anyone in it (that may or may not have anything to do with the camera angle), but I love it regardless. The people in it made up a small portion of the neighbors who paraded the streets yesterday disturbing the peace with high-volume joy. Little girls skipped through snow slush in their princess dresses, and little boys dressed as pirates tried to make it more than two yards before staging another sword fight, and grandparents held hands, and we mamas chatted over the clatter of homemade maracas while keeping an eye out for each other’s offspring. We were superbly loud.
Do you see the police car at the front of the line? Several officers came out to block traffic for us, and it made my heart swell every time one of their firm faces cracked into a grin at all the exuberance. Even the car drivers, whose big important plans were having to wait for short legs, waved and cheered from the sidelines. And do you see the man across the street toward the left of the photo wearing a bright blue scarf? His name is Michele, which I now know because the crowd made up a cheer for him as we walked past. I mean, why not?
After looping the neighborhood, we all squeezed into the elementary school gym for an epic dance party complete with disco lights and paper ribbon explosions, and it struck me that what I was doing at that moment—boogying with my girls and admiring their friends’ costumes and making plans for a moms-only date night and laughing with my neighbors—was exactly what we’d hoped for in moving to Italy. Doing community. Sure, neighborhood-wide disco parties can daunt an introvert like me into hiding, but it turns out that the delight of inclusion, of intentional, joyful togetherness, is just the thing to sweep an introvert like me right out of her shell.