So here we are, going around the world in some fantasy temporary retirement. There’s only one (for now) thing distorted with this picture: We’re toting a 3 1/2 year old.
He’s been a great sport so far—sleeping better than us on planes and trains, and oblivious to time changes. He may not “get it,” though, and sometimes asks about a faraway sandbox, or when we’re going home. He misses his playmates. He carries his baseball glove around as if he yearns for Italy to suddenly embrace that sport and, then, himself. But that prop here elicits more stares than smiles.
He’s hard work. And some of us aren’t used to 24/7 parenting (he’d likely say the same thing). Yet he spots lizards and slugs where we see only a sculpture, and he’s picking up Italian like the rest of us do—through food, friends, and faking it.
He may not remember much of this trip; certainly my remaining images from being three are more formed by family photos and stories than actual recollection. I felt downright guilty when, in Lucca, he began to chase after other children on the sidewalks. They just don’t do that kind of thing in Italy, although the children (and mothers) were quite understanding. It had been days since the sun had shined—or he’d played with little people—and they could see it in his eyes.
Yet when I think back to his first trip to the ocean, to Ixtapa, Mexico, on his first birthday, travelling with children seems right again. He could barely walk, never mind that he was strong (willed) as a bull. And he loved that ocean. Something awakened. He attacked the water like a salmon swimming upstream; salt and sand in his face only strengthened his resolve. And as for waves, well, he had no fear of drowning and saw them as mere rides on a playground.
He’s a good inspiration that way, since the waves are everywhere. I do wish he had a better idea of where we’re going, and why. But then I’d want him to explain it to me. And at this point, perhaps the point is not knowing.