I’m writing these notes at 6am, after having slept in short intervals throughout the night. My son Lorenzo is teething and he only accepts me comforting him at night. Lucky me! 

Somehow I feel awake, and lucid. I debate whether I should sleep some more, because sleep should never be taken for granted with a baby around. But neither should I let go of a lucid moment.

I remember reading an interview in which Isol, one of my favourite children’s book authors and illustrators, said that after becoming a mother she started tackling projects that she could do in a fragmented manner, whenever her baby was napping.

(By the way, if you’ve never heard of Isol and have children in your lives, go online and buy one of her books now. You will thank me later.)

So, in Isol’s style, here come this week’s fragments.

The insides of a VHS tape

Yesterday, Lorenzo was out of my sight for two minutes as I unloaded the dishwasher. When he is quiet it is usually a sign that he’s doing something he shouldn’t, like climbing up stairs or painting the sofa. But before I registered the silence, he came over to me with a VHS tape in his hands, with part of the film pulled out.

He had found it in a box of things I want to get rid of. My first reaction was to tell him off. “You can’t go and destroy everything you find in your path!” I said. But then I took the tape in my hands and I thought to myself, “What the hell!”. So I got a screwdriver (one of Lorenzo’s passions) and together we unscrewed the tape to reveal the insides of a VHS tape. It included two cool inner reels that we started using as gymnastics tape in an impromptu dance session. We laughed and laughed as we unrolled the film more and more. 

I must admit that I had never looked inside a VHS tape. I used to be one of those disciplined kids who tried to always behave well. How much have I missed out on by trying to preserve the outside layer of objects? My piece of advice for you is never to take out your recycling before you let your toddlers go through it and have fun for a while.

Adiós, Diego

I write about the first 1,000 days of life, about how we’re born and how we become adults. I spend my days thinking about how we start off our lives as kids, what influences us, and how we grow up.

So how could I – a Neapolitan mother to a half-Argentine kid – not be mourning Diego Maradona this week? In case you have no idea who Maradona is (I mean, how’s that even possible, but fair enough … ), he was considered the greatest football player of all times, the Argentine who led his country to an amazing World Cup victory, and spent most of his career in Naples, my home town, where he made our football club rise to glory. When I found out that he had died last week, unexpected tears came rolling down my cheeks – and I was not alone.

These are pictures I took in Banjul (left) and Naples (right).

He was such a symbol of my city and my adoptive country combined that my husband and I almost called our son Diego. We didn’t because it was going to be too much of an affront to my dad who is the only Neapolitan man I know who hates football, and Maradona more than anyone.

Maradona was crazy, passionate, inappropriate, funny, dangerous. He got hooked on cocaine and was in shady dealings with the local mafia. He was a reflection of what makes my home city Naples shine and what makes it crumble.

For us Neapolitans growing up in the 1980s, Maradona was a tool of vengeance against the privileged northern Italians who called us terroni and said we stank. He scored again and again, bringing the football club of our decadent city into the international limelight.

The boy who dreamed of winning the World Cup as he was playing in a muddy field in a slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires showed the world that childhood dreams can come true – no matter the circumstances you’re raised in.

This is true for female footballers in Argentina, writes journalist Ayelén Pujol, and for common people in Latin America, Naples, and all the way to Bengal and Kerala, as my colleague Tanmoy Goswami told me.

“He played with the seriousness with which kids play,” writes journalist Juan Pablo Varsky in Argentine daily La Nación
It couldn’t be a better testament to a man who lived a childhood dream fully.

More Maradona imagery in Buenos Aires (left) and Naples (right).

Some bad stuff

You won’t believe this, but Italian state TV broadcast a tutorial to show women how to be more intriguing and sexier while doing groceries. Seriously. Here.

Now, I won’t blame the pole dancer. But as writer Giulia Blasi says, why do they expect stay-at-home-mothers to be interested in this kind of material, to be only fulfilled by these small moments of domestic vanity?

I am raging … ! The good news is that the show has been suspended, thanks to a lot of outrage (like mine) on social networks.

Some good stuff

Scotland has become the first nation in the world that will provide free menstrual products to anyone who needs them – in public bathrooms, at libraries, museums, schools and universities!

Read why this is an amazing step forward in this piece.

Help me!

The Argentine government has proposed a bill called First 1,000 Days Plan to focus on pregnancies and early childhood. 
Have you heard of other governments doing something similar? Are there national policies called the first 1,000 days elsewhere? Let me know if you have tips and ideas! I will be dedicating a newsletter to this in the coming weeks.

Until next week’s fragments,


This article first appeared in The Correspondent, the member-funded platform that shut down on 1 January 2021.

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