Dump trucks, trash trucks, and excavation equipment lay in the dirt just outside the patio where he last played. There is no mistaking Luca’s house, a little boy lives here. I make my way into the patio where an abundance of trucks and toys are lined up, waiting for their next adventure at the hands of my grandson. I tap on the front door, then reach for the knob and find it unlocked. Entering, I call up the stairs, hello? My daughter responds. I call again, Luca? He offers a quiet hello. The kind that tells me, hmm . . . . my Nonna is here and I want to be alone with my mama, I don’t want to share her with anyone.
I find them in the master bedroom building with Legos. His mama encourages him to give me a hug, he does, though a little reluctantly. I kiss his sweet face several times; tell him how much I love him and how happy I am to see him. He smiles and says, what did you bring me? I laugh and say, I brought you my love and my kisses and I’m going to play with you. I am pleasantly surprised when he smiles and accepts my explanation. What do you want to play?
After some talking, and a little bargaining, the three of us make our way outside and sit on the sidewalk to play trucks. We push them through the dirt as Luca directs the play. His mama and I try to convince him to go for a walk or grab some lunch, but he’s not hungry. He just wants to play, to be at home. Restless and a little bored with the trucks, Luca pulls me into the patio and asks me to build a zoo. My daughter points to a large container of blocks and tells me that Luca likes to build a zoo. She says, I told Luca that these blocks used to me at my grandma’s house , and then Nonnie and Chiara’s house, and now they are his to use.
Luca asks me to dump the contents onto the patio. I remember these blocks in my parent’s home, where does the time go? My daughter quietly sneaks away to do some chores, she knows I love to be alone with Luca. His little face is quite serious as he busies himself. Making walls and pens with the old blocks, he tells me, the blue is water, how about the red is hot lava, and the green is hay. I agree and tell him, you are a good builder and so smart to know what color blocks are best to use. He says, I know. I love to see his confidence emerge.
He tilts his head and looks at my handy work. With an authoritative tone, he asks me to make a few changes, additional water and hay. Nonna go over there and build some more, he says pointing to a spot that needs some work. He asks me about my arrangement of the well-worn block animals. I tell him they must be separated because some animals eat other animals. He wants to know all about which animals are nice, which ones want to eat us and why. I do my best to explain that all the animals are good, all of nature is good. He does his best to understand.
As he asks his many questions, touching the animals, he accidentally knocks down a little gateway, and blocks spill. I quickly say, it’s okay, I can fix it. As I rebuild, he looks for reassurance asking, you will never get mad at me Nonna? I say, just an accident sweetie, no big deal.
Using every single block we finish our zoo by making pipes, as Luca says. I can only guess this is some kind of irrigation system. But then . . . I am his Nonna . . . and I think he is brilliant.
He tells his mama he is hungry and wants to eat at home. I sit with him as he eats. Pushing the sandwich in my face, he tells me, eat the lettuce parts. I happily oblige, nibbling sides of the bread, removing all the lettuce, so Luca eats only the parts he likes. In a million years, I would have never done that for my own kids, but I am older, wiser and softer these days.
It’s time for me to go. Luca asks me to stay a bit longer and I do. We play and talk and I am so happy to be a part of his world. As I make my way to the door, he joins me and walks me out to the patio. I lean down to kiss his little lips and he covers my face with kisses. As I stand up he wraps his arms around my legs and kisses my belly. He giggles, holds me tightly, and keeps kissing me. He pretends to finish kissing me and then kisses me some more, laughing as I pretend to be shocked and surprised by all the kisses. I lean down and kiss him once more . . . he runs to the door laughing and waves good-bye.
Now I feel reassured. I am reminded of something someone once said to me long, long ago, someone who did not have children of his own . . . he said . . . All they need is you . . . I wish that I had understood the depth of these wise words while I was in the throes of young motherhood.
No regrets, only gratitude for reaping the benefits of those important words today, and every day I spend with Luca.