I stand at the back gate of the school, the designated spot for picking up first graders. My grandson knows I’m his ride today and I can’t wait to see him, just the two of us for a few hours. The bell rings and class after class make their way across the playground. I spot Luca, smiling and waving to me, so big now. I smile too. He raises his hand to be dismissed and tells his teacher, “My Nonna is here.” He gives me a hug. I bend down and kiss his head, taking in his rusty little boy scent.
He asks if he can play in the park and I say yes. A decision I immediately regret as kids run in every direction, going up slides instead of down, and near misses at the swings. I cringe and wince, resisting the urge to dust off my principal’s voice. Instead I keep an eye on Luca without hovering too close.
After five minutes, I’ve had enough of the craziness, “It’s time to go!”, I shout. Luca runs to me. Walking to the car he makes a request to stop for an ice-cream at Dairy Queen. “Drive through Nonna. I like to relax in the car. Can I take off my shoes? Can I take off my socks?” I use my Nonna powers and say yes to everything. He loves that.
I drag him along on a few errands, promising very quick stops and even a small Lego set if he behaves himself. He happily agrees. On the long drive home, there is nothing left to do, but talk, may favorite time. He asks when I’m going back to Italy and how long I’ll be gone. To help him understand the passage of time I compare my last trip of fifty-two weeks to my upcoming trip of only three or four weeks. He seems to grasp that.
He asks why I have lived in so many places since I’ve been home and wants to know when I will have my own house. I tell him I’m not sure of where I want to live, I’m having trouble deciding. He’s quiet for a minute and then he asks, “Nonna, do you have a partner who could help you?” I chuckle, “A partner? What do you mean?” “You know” he says, “Someone to live with who helps you. Or maybe you could get a boyfriend who you could marry, and then he would take care of you.”
He talks as though I have no idea that these kinds of humans exist. It makes sense. He’s not old enough to remember ever seeing me in a relationship with a man. He continues by telling me that his great grandma says she’ll never get married again, and then exclaims, “I wonder why?” I glance at him in the rear view mirror. He looks puzzled, as though he is asking why anyone would pass on the sweet deal of having someone look after them. I don’t try to explain.
The conversation fades into quiet as Luca examines his new box of Legos. His explanation about partners and husbands lingers in my heart and mind, so innocent. I know over the years his own life lessons will shape his grown-up views of love and life.
For now, I love that he offers little boy wisdom to help his Nonna.
I love that he is looking out me . . .