With its cobblestone roads, quaint shops, fresh seafood restaurants, and pastel-colored houses – not to mention its crowning jewel, Castello Aragonese (Aragonese Castle) and the bridge that connects it to the island, the town of Ischia Ponte in Ischia, Italy offers peace, quiet, and a bit of that Old World so many people talk about when reminiscing about Italian travel experiences. That is all true, unless you visit Ischia Ponte while Baby Boy is there.
Dozing off in his stroller, he somehow caught a second wind, screamed, and woke up my friends’ daughter about 10 minutes before we were scheduled to have lunch at one of those lovely restaurants I was talking about above. First, he ran on the bridge screaming and crying as though I was kidnapping him. In fact, in the photo above I had just caught him and turned him toward the boats and scenery in the hopes that the tears would stop. There was absolutely no explanation for this sudden fit of rage. I’ve learned that this is perfectly normal behavior when you’re two years old and have parents who each speak a different language and you can’t communicate anything in either one.
Whether it was the language or something else that took over my son’s body in Ischia Ponte, I’ll never know. But once we arrived at lunch, he had completely lost his mind. I mean it seemed to me that his head was literally spinning all the way around and that he would never ever be able to make a peep that wasn’t at the Metallica level of volume. Every tourist in the joint was staring at us – or at least that is how it seemed to me, the American mamma – even though we were in a secluded room all to ourselves. Banish the people with babies is the philosophy around here (at least during the tourist season and when tourists are around because many Italians do adore children, while other people just don’t). And my son proved why it must be so on that very day.
I picked him up and brought him outside, once again heading toward the bridge, in the hopes that he would either calm down or take that much-needed nap, so I could return to the treats at the table, which included muscles and bruschetta and olives and sardines. When Baby Boy’s making like a lunatic and screaming in public, I like to tell people that he’s training his lungs and someday he will be a serious singer or swimmer. But really he’s just being a pia (it’s pronounced p-ee-ah and it’s my cousin’s word for pain in the a–, which he jokingly uses to talk about his teenage daughter when she’s picking out which outfit to wear anywhere). On this occasion, Baby Boy was being a pia and I was trying to get him to sleep, so I was swaying him on my hip and singing lullabies, such as “God Bless America” and “Proud to be an American.” You can see where my head is at. Still, this usually works like a charm. Not today.
So, I returned to the restaurant to see what course my friends were up to. There was a beautiful swordfish, grilled and fried calamari, and my bruschetta and muscles still on the table. I tried to feed Baby Boy the bruschetta. Tomatoes and bread always cheer me up, especially around here. He spit it in my face. I decided to eat it myself post spit and all. All you other parents out there, don’t you dare say, “Ewwww,” because I know you’ve done the same or you would if the tomatoes and bread were as good as they are in Ischia. I gulped down a few of those delicious muscles and a couple of fried calamari as I picked up baby and split again. Again, we headed toward the bridge. I was certain the other people in town watching me with my son were commenting on how the American mom can’t do anything right. They might have a point. Their kids weren’t carrying on and on and on like Baby Boy. And in that moment, like all mothers the world over, I felt guilt and shame rise inside me like a flame in a fire.
Then, when I was holding Baby Boy’s flailing body against my chest, and he was still crying and screaming as though the world was about to literally come to an end, I thought, “Well, at least we’re in a Catholic country. There must be someone around who could perform an exorcism on the spot.” Just as this flashed into my head, Baby Boy let me put him back in the stroller and within minutes he fell asleep. Finally. It was, of course, the very moment that we were leaving Ischia Ponte for my friends had finished the meal. Of course.