MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
My mom confession (for today anyway) is that I sometimes go to my son’s closet to pull out his baby blankies. I put the soft fleece up to my face, so I can feel it brush against mine. I take a whiff and clutch it to my heart when no one else is around. Once in a while, I have a good cry over it, replete with real tears.
I love my son – the now 5-year-old boy, who still plays with my hair when he’s tired, doesn’t like to walk into a room alone, and is part web-slinging Spider-Man and nunchuck swinging mutant turtle at any given moment. I love when he sings the Popcorn song to me and dances with his toy robot and proudly displays his ability to write his name and draw a minion. But I’m sick with grief about not having a tiny hand to hold. I long for a baby’s breath on my shoulder. I wish for the gurgles and coos of yesteryear. I always thought I’d have more than one kid. I don’t feel done. And I never say never, so maybe things will change. God has plans for me, I’m certain. I just don’t know what they are exactly.
Still, when I quit daydreaming and start living in reality, I understand that we are three – and it probably will stay that way. I’m almost 38 years old, and I have polycystic ovaries. It’s not easy to get pregnant, and the miscarriage I had before my son enveloped me in a darkness that still lives within. I don’t know if I’m capable of allowing that pain to boil to the surface. When I take a good look in the mirror and get honest with myself, I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to do what it takes to even try to get pregnant again. That’s just a bit of what the decision to go for No. 2 would entail. There are finances, work-life balance issues, child care, and my husband’s feelings first and foremost. You know how it is.
Regardless, no matter what happens down the road, for now, my son is an only child. Coming from big Italian families, my husband and I are committed to giving him the feeling of family and belonging even if he does not have a brother or sister. One of the saving graces of Italian families is the tradition of treating cousins as siblings and nieces and nephews as your own children. It is everything to me. I’m living with an indescribable guilt for not being able to provide him with a sibling. My brother and sister probably don’t know this, but I consider them among my best friends. I know I can count on them when my world crumbles. In the dark of night, I lie sleepless in bed staring at the ceiling imagining a day when my husband and I are not here and my son stands alone. All alone. The scene is enough to make me quiver.
To say I’m grateful for my 4-year-old nephew and 6-year-old niece, who my son refers to as his brother and sister, is an understatement. They are with us almost everyday. We do homework together. We ride bikes together. We play games together. We laugh together. We cry together. My son gets into mischief with them, and they all end up in time out. I catch them wrestling each other. I catch my niece bossing around the boys like I did as a child. I catch her reading to them. I catch the boys acting out scenes from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and fighting over who gets to be Leonardo. Yes, I hide in the bathroom from all three of them sometimes. Grateful but still human.
But are these two built-in best friends for life enough? I wonder. I don’t know. So, on his birthday for the last two years, I have made a family reunion for my son. When we were in Italy, we gathered his aunts and their husbands and children and his Nonna in the kitchen for a big themed dinner – once a pizza party, replete with mustache straws and chef hats, and once a Mickey Mouse party, replete with ears for everyone. Now that we’re back in the United States, we have packed up to 70 people into our driveway and backyard for a homemade buffet – once a Toy Story-themed bash with target game like the one at Disney World and the other a robot-themed bash with a giant Enzo-Bot that my son and I made out of everyday items, such as paper boxes, duct tape, and packing material. Themes don’t matter much. I do that to get him excited and make the area festive. I don’t even always get him a gift. When I do, it’s something small. This year it was Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots to play with everyone at the party. And we make all the food ourselves and serve it buffet style on plastic dishes. Fancy is not the point.
I want him to know all the cousins I knew as my brothers and sisters when I was growing up and their children. I want him to know his great aunts and uncles and great grandma. I even want him to know the angels who watch over us, so we visit the cemetery and kiss their photos on the mausoleum walls. I want him to have what I had. The days of passing every Sunday together over a bowl of pasta and running from Nonna with her “bastone” after we got in her way as she cleaned the garden are behind us. Nonna and Nonno are our angels now. Grandpa is my angel now. Some people have moved away from us. But for the most part we still rely on each other.
We still remember all those little moments from childhood that bound us to one another for life – the games we played, the mischief we made (mud pies, mud pools, climbing on the big landscaping trucks), the stories we told, the secrets we still keep for one another, having each other’s back (with bullies on the playground, cheating mates, backstabbing co-workers), supporting each other in the worst of times (relatives with cancer, losses of the people we love, broken hearts, tattered dreams). And I want him to have people who share in life’s joys (milestones, good food, dancing). I want my son to know that even though he doesn’t have siblings, he has lots and lots of love. I want him to have people to whom he can turn in his hours of need. I don’t want him to be standing alone. Not ever.
For as long as I can for holidays and birthdays, I want to give him the gift of family. I want to gather our brood in our nest. I want to eat great food together and talk about what our lives once were and what they could be. I want him to joke and laugh and love. I want him to recognize what makes us all unique and what makes us all the same. I want him to realize that even if he never gets another plastic toy or another cent to put in the bank, he will forever be rich in family.