Our baby is now officially walking. He has been testing the waters for almost three months now. Walking two steps, then eight or ten, then pausing for reflection. Then a fall and no walking at all for a few days, then back again to take a few attempts. But he has never felt any urgency, no matter how I coax and encourage. He is taking it all in his own time. I have to respect that. He walks until he feels it is unsafe, and then he quietly kneels down and commences crawling to his destination. I have to contemplate that perhaps this has been my arpproach to life as well...very careful, with intention and some small inkling of perfectionism... But his favorite thing has been to reach up for two willing hands and proceed to guide them were he wants to go. In fact, now Momma is not enough. I gab hold of his hand when he wants to walk, and he looks back over his shoulder and expectantly says, dada? As if to say, "you ARE coming, right, Dada?" So we grasp hold of either hand and the three of us go walking down the ancient cobblestone streets. He doesn't let you lead though, no no, you hold his hand and you follow where his mind is set on exploring. I have to say, it is a pretty fun ride. This kid amazes me everyday. His determination is astounding, and is something I could really learn from. We have been staying in a villa on Lake Como for three days. He did his evening ritual walk-around exploration when we checked in. I swear the kid thinks it is Disneyworld the way he explores every nook of each new hotel or apartment, like a daily adventure. Well, here he found a radiator in the kitchen. An old water-filled radiator like many old houses here have. He tried twisting the knob, which has worked for him in the past. He learned to unscrew the cap that turns the radiator on and off. When saw him struggling with the cap that first night, I told him, "honey, it's too hard, it won't turn, just leave it". He looked up at me innocently and moved on to something else, but every once in a while he came back to that radiator cap and tried to turn it. Well, wouldn't you know at six this morning, when he got up, I was in the kitchen boiling water for tea, and I glanced over at him where he was "working". I saw him grinning and holding up that little radiator cap to me, like a present he wanted me to take. I was overwhelmed. I reached down and saw that he had indeed gotten the little cap loose after several times a day of working on it, and I am amazed at his persistence and determination already. That he would continue to try to get that little cap off the radiator, not to give-up in the face of adversity, but to go back and keep trying, I realize how much more babies know about the world than we do. How much more they can accomplish and become. He was so thrilled with himself when he was holding up that radiator cap to me it was heartbreaking. He holds it in an outstretched arm and grins wildly, saying, "dat, dat, dat", like 'hey, look at this!' And when he does something he is rprroud of, or gives you something, he pats his stomach. It is his way of saying, "Prego" in Italian, or "bitte" in German: please, go ahead, take it. He knew what an accomplishment it was, to have wedged that tough cap off, and still he was openly offering it as a gift. I wouldn't have given the damn thing a second thought. I would have called maintenance, or ignored it, and moved on. I wouldn't have spent three days working toward that simple goal, but he did, and it was amazing. So here begins another lesson in a long line of lessons I will humbly be learning from my son.
Like a lizard, I am shedding pieces of myself everywhere we go now. A stained t-shirt last night, a broken watch the week before, a pair of socks, some old tea bags. All the old and unused begin to fall away. Some are replaced, or recycled. I like to think other people find them out of the trash and use them. An old chewed book... maybe another child is reading, practicing his English as Bodhi is practicing his Italian with new books we have bought. It can be difficult, this shedding process. It is most definitely cathartic. You leave it all behind. You won't come back for it. You don't know what happens to it from here on out, and you move on. It forces you to be absolutely in the moment of what you need right now, and not save anything for later, or for a rainy day. Being a pack rat by nature, it takes me weeks, or even months to get to this point of clarity wherein I being to realize that everything that we own has a life cycle. Things must be put to rest in order for new things to begin, to be purchased or garnered. Without throwing away, you leave no room for the gathering process. As with physical belongings, so with the mind and your stockpile of thoughts and attitudes. To make way for the new, you must strip away the old and unused...especialy the ones that never quite worked for you or never quite fit. This weekend was a real expulsion. Now we have two total bags (one being the crib!), and one carry-on, plus the stroller. Not a lot for two adults and a small child that demands most of the space. It feels lighter. We will see how much further we get before the next purging must take place. It is a constant process, reducing and rebuilding. When you only have so much space, you only expand to fill that much space, so everything is a real test - do we need it or do we not? Can we get by without it? What can be replaced? What can be eliminated? What can we make room for in our lives? How do we simplify and keep ourselves buoyant? By lightening our physical load maybe we can also lighten our experience... At least we won't sweat as badly as we drag our belongings through 90 degree summer heat in the train stations and through the airport. Tomorrow we leave for Prague. A new destination, away from Italy, which is a bittersweet goodbye. It will be nice to have a new perspective, but hard to leave; and after two months here, there is much I will miss... at least as much as I am glad to leave. I will miss the absolute kindness toward babies, that even as we are in airport hotels with American guests, I miss. I miss the Italian national appreciation of babies. The way you can expect everyone in a restaurant to smile, to reach out, to engage. No unfriendly glances, no irritation. Only room for babies to be how they are here. I will miss the limoncello, amaro, aperol, homemade pasta, caffe, the warm sun, the scent of the ocean, the warmth and approachableness of the people. The ability to understand the menus. The landscape of grapes and cypress trees and hay and corn and sky and ocean and wooded hills. The old old buildings and worn out cobbles, the smell of age, and the gold coloring all around. Most of all, I will miss the Meditteranean sea and the slow pace of life and the constant snacking. It has been an amazing two months in Italy, where our little boy gained the confidence to walk. See you in the Czech Republic and onward!