We’ve been staying with my parents for nearly two months now and I wonder if my kids will one day remember this fondly as the summer they spent in America, or if my two-year-old will remember it at all. Before this trip, they’d never been to the US for so long in their lives.
When we arrived, my youngest son’s only words in English were “Bye bye” and “Mommy”. But here he seems to pick up a dozen words a day and is now speaking in full sentences. He has recently discovered “Why?”
My six-year-old learned to swim this summer. At the beach, he ran into the ocean with the grown-ups, and when the first big wave crashed him down, he found his footing and got back up again.
All this summer at the pool he has made new, American friends. The first month we were here, he would spot a potential playmate and run back to whisper in my ear, “What can I say to that boy over there? Will you say it for me?”
Now he just walks over and introduces himself.
My boys love the pool in America because the rules are so much more lax than in Italy. They can go barefoot all day. They don’t need swim caps. They don’t have to shower or rinse their feet off before entering and re-entering the water. They are allowed to eat ice cream and jump right back in. No one warns them to dry off immediately in order to prevent intestinal blockage.
It is so much fun for me to see them play at the pool the way I did as a kid, although it is a reminder of how different their childhoods are from mine, with the exception of these trips. While I know I could never recreate my magical summers with my grandparents at Lake Berryessa, I do hope to give them the chance to make happy memories in America for which they will one day feel at least a tinge of nostalgia.
I would love for them to remember the sights and smells and the small pieces of life they’ve experienced here with the kind of fondness I have for the summers of my youth, but so much here is still so foreign to them.
The other day we asked them what their favorite American dish was, the best thing they’d had since we’d been here, and my six-year-old, the more discerning of the two, promptly answered that the very best thing he’d had to eat was the pasta with fresh pesto I’d served the night before.
It wasn’t American, but at least it was something I had made. And I suppose it’s unfair to burden them with my expectations for their childhood. “Make some happy American memories! Or else!”
I could just be glad that instead of remembering this as the saddest summer of my life, which it easily could have been, I will remember it as the summer my younger son began insistently declaring his love for me in the language I’ve taught him and the summer my firstborn son fearlessly jumped into the water, let go of the wall and swam.