All it takes is one little hand to color a house a home. It’s easy for me to be sad right now on this Italian island far from my friends and family. It’s easy to get down when you have to keep American hours (which means working nights) to keep your American job that you need to support your family. It’s easy to moan and complain about how hard you have it when you’re not resting comfortably in your own king-sized bed with the Egyptian cotton sheets and fluffy pillows you bought when you wed. It’s even easier to lose your cool while hanging one more stinking towel you’ve just washed on the line outside while Baby Boy throws yet another fit because you told him to get his hands out of the dirty, standing water that piled up in the planter overnight.
Others hear that you’re on an island in Italy and think you are on one long vacation, even if you’re working every day pretty much, even if every household chore is 10 times harder here, even if you mostly hate it. You walk into the house and think, “This is not my space. This is not my home. This is God’s punishment for whatever I’ve done wrong in this life and others.” Your home is in New Jersey, where you picked the paint color and the flooring, where you snuggled with your newborn when you brought him home from the hospital, where your cousins gather for pumpkin decorating parties at Halloween and cookie devouring parties at Christmas, where your father serves you tomatoes and bread like he did when you were little, where your mother helps you with your son when you’re working long hours or have the flu, where your niece and nephew join your son in building forts and pretending to be pirates, princesses, and dragons.
While New Jersey will always be my home sweet home like no other, when I walked into the house in Ischia this morning, while my son continued to throw a tantrum about leaving his bath of dirty water in the garden where it belongs, I noticed the artwork he had colored on the wall in his playroom/our living room shortly after we arrived in April. The magic eraser takes off the paint that my brother-in-law painstakingly put on the wall before our arrival, so I haven’t touched it.
I saw Baby Boy’s scribbles in a different light today. I thought, “Home is wherever my son is dawdling and doodling.” In fact, I’m writing this as he takes breaks from pushing his toy cars along the tile and kitchen chairs to gently tug at my hair and squeeze me with all his surprising might. Even if he is getting drool all over my face with his wet, wet kisses (which he has pretty much reserved exclusively for mommy), Baby Boy is my true home for the moment and nothing else should matter. Nothing.