Beyond the quake: textiles, textures and general decay

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One of the “Catch 22” situations we got with the house since the start, that is to say after the first checks and classification post-earthquake, was that they classified it as inagibile. This means, in simple words, that nobody is authorized to get in there unless under supervision of a group of fireman, with helmets and all.

Six years after the earthquake of L’Aquila, after many visits, checks, controls, measurements, reconstruction is about to start. The house is still inagibile but some sort of informal acceptance has taken place there about getting in it with a permit or supervision whatsoever.

Some temporary protection has been set in the alleys to make sure the neighbors won’t get a stone falling on their head while walking to their home. This gave us all the feeling that, unless another earthquake would take place, the house will hold a bit more, so we felt reassured in entering it.

From a practical point of view it is virtually impossible to enforce the prohibition of entering damaged homes, and the local autorities somehow came to term with this. Don’t ask, don’t tell, sort of thing.

Because let’s be real, how’s about all the architects, engineers, builders working around them all these years to get the plans ready, approved and eventually financed? They did what they had to do, and if all these strangers can get in my home any time they please, why should I not be able to do the same? This is probably what the majority of homeowners in the area thought. And they acted consequently.

This meant also that after a couple of summers more life was to be detected in the alleys and in the damaged homes, as people used their holidays to go and check the situation, see friends and trying to do their best to protect what was left. We, for example, would get there, clean some dust, chase some spiders, get rid of all the plants growing on all the external walls, air the mattresses and the blankets, try to get some work done. Basically, we were trying to get back the feeling that our house was still our home. But without a deadline for the reconstruction we left with a feeling that everything was on hold. Our lives were on hold. Our plans for the future too.

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A couple of years later these visits had to stop: the checks and preliminary works got to the stage of breaking down plaster from the walls to see what sort of material was used to make it: and a whole lots of material was it: large masonry stones, smaller stones kept together by cement, sometime bricks to close a former doorway, different layers on a single wall, you name it, we had it.

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In every corner now there was a pile of debris, which created a thick layer of dust everywhere. This dust was not easy to clean, so we gave up. We would enter silently the house, as if we were visiting at a funeral, move something here and there, and then renounce, as the whole sight would make us sad and weak.

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I might have mentioned before that the biggest damage was made by water leaks: the shocks moved several rooftiles and since then rain is seeping trough the walls and in the upper rooms. Of course, in a normal damage situation, when you are not prohibited to enter the house, doing the repairs you can afford and get on with your life. Or just accept that there is nothing to do, that you cannot afford it and let it go (as if this was easier).

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But now it looks like the project has been completed, modified, reproved, additional documentation presented, all the steps, in short, depending on changing rules and scarcer budget, and priorities, and a better view of the general situation in the whole province. So we need to empty the house, pack all the stuff, find a storage, get some hope of change.

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And one of the things we did, since we got a couple of days of glorious May sun, was to hang all the textile outside, have it dry before packing it for the next couple of years, or whatever it will take before we could officially get back into our home. It was nice, somehow. Finding back a frilly dress of when I was 2 years old. Ancient embroideries, made thin by time and use. The traditional wool blankets woven with a double side with opposing colors. And too little time to remember, to enjoy the fact that after all the troubles of all of our lives, for generations, there were still objects we could relate to, that reminded us of times of gone by innocence.

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Textile was the first step. Than it started raining, so we moved to other work. I will post some of it the coming days. It was a murdering work, lots of emotions getting in the way. I noticed, not for the first time, that my mom cannot cope, emotionally,  with this all. She did huge work in the house to preserve it in the years before the quake, to make it clean and homey, to catalogue all the heritage it contained, that now she cannot so it anymore.

So for a few days we did it alone, and I left her in the temporary home so she could recover a bit. but on some days we really needed her to decide what to do with the paperwork of the old company.

“Oh, these are all the people owning me money. I wish I would get 1% of it all the last 30 years” she said, ponting at a cabinet full of files.

“Away with it. Leave only the papers of the court case against that crook”, I asked. Because I was a bit more than a kid at the time, but in a few years I am sure I will regain the space of mind to want to know in the details how come a hard working couple managed to lose all for borrowing money to the wrong person, at the wrong moment. A guy who was a friend, until then.

Oh, we sure filled a couple of paper containers last week, not to mention glass, plastic and general garbage. But it was worth all the effort.

“I am so happy you came to do this, I truly cannot decide what to throw away”, mom said.

I was too tired from all the boxes we filled, moved, transported, to decide if it was a relief for me too. But I am glad I did. I am glad my friend Fausto came to help. He feels exactly the same, but it is not his past what he had to sort and pack. And it was great to count on his expertise on antiquities and art.

“What do you think of this sketch? Is it art or do I throw it away?”

“Well, it is very nicely drawn, keep it. Is not Michelangelo, but has its own dignity”.

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“And how’s about this authentic, mid-century, baroque souvenir of Lourdes?”

“Are you even thinking of keeping it? Pure plastic”.

“Yes, but we are full of these birthday-gifts for my great aunt who was a nun”.

“Well, faith is a different thing”.

So I published it on Facebook and found a friend collecting these round Madonna’s, and faith justifies lots of wrong aesthetics anyway. I am glad she wants it.

Then I flew back home, and endured the worst headache of all times for a couple of days. But it will pass. Faith is helping.

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