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Our flight was a circus.
Obviously, being stuck in a confined environment for two and a half hours with a baby on you lap that smiles and giggles at everyone, doesn't really help If all you want is 'quiet' time.
We were literally surrounded by flight attendants and other children. They all wanted a piece of my son. The children were bearing gifts like some 'Kings coming from afar'. One piece of apple, some empty plastic cup and even some random sunglasses, no doubt stolen from mum or dad. Children can be so amazing in their generosity and Gabriel, needless to say, was only too happy to grab on to everything (after papa discreetly took care of everything with antibacterial wipes). We did refuse the sunglasses though, to the little girl disappointment (shame... They were by Tom Ford...).
We even befriended another couple sitting just behind us. He is english and she is italian.
They made a point, halfway through our flight, of coming to us to tell us what a joy we are to look at, what a lovely family we are and how adorable our son is. A little embarrassing really. They were being genuine though.
We ended up talking about the fact that they were thinking of trying IVF and surrogacy to conceive.
She couldn't carry a full term pregnancy because of a latent genetical disorder and they were very hopeful, albeit scared of the element of trust needed to embark on a surrogacy arrangement with a (nearly) total stranger. We SO understand!
We exchanged email addresses to stay in touch and we are definitely going to see them in Rome on our next trip.

We arrived at destination just after 9 in the evening..... Way past Gabriel's bedtime.
It took us a long time to get out of the airport because BA decided to misplace our stroller , so we were left wandering the terminal in search of someone to talk to and ended up with absolutely nothing as it turned out that our stroller was still in London.
That's exactly what you don't need when traveling with a ten month old baby.
Willie Walsh, you are so gonna get it one day, and not the way you like it...

Upon arriving, everything in the street was quiet, I could only hear the mumbling of some TV wafting through the half open windows into the evening air and I could smell some delicious late dinner being served. Gabriel's little head was bobbing on Steven's shoulder, he was exhausted.
I thought "This is the eye of the cyclone for sure" and braced myself for the crowds as I rang mum's doorbell.
She opened the door.
"Here they are!!!" she exclaimed smiling from ear to ear and proceeding to grab her grandson from his daddy's arms (I told her so many times not to do that.... But Steven looked at me smiling).
"Oh you poor little sparrow.... Are you tired?" she went on cooing to Little G
"YEAH MUM I AM EXHAUSTED!" I yelled laughing, but she was not listening. She just left us there with our luggage and went back inside.
"Bless her.." Steven just said, smiling.
We followed her in, balancing the traveling circus of bags and boxes behind us.
Nobody there apart from dad.
"Where is everybody?" I asked, incredulous
"Who's everybody?" mum replied
"Well, you know.... Everybody... Pestering aunts, intrusive cousins and their obscure new boyfriends/girlfriends..."
"Oh get over yourself! You can't expect to be the flavour of the month forever, can you? Besides, now everybody is focusing on Dina's dirty divorce, don't you know?" she laughed
"Mum seriously!" I reproached her
"Ok ok. Fine! I might have told some of your relatives to keep away until I said it was ok to invade.... But for God's sake, this is also MY time with my grandson... I don't want to share him with anyone!" and she concluded adding quickly "Anyhow, Dina will be here tomorrow...".
"Well, thanks mum! You managed to keep away everybody with your speeches, but not the only one I could've waited to meet?"
I protested.
"Oh Marco, come on.... Dina has been pestering me to come and see you... She wanted to know when you were arriving... It's been impossible to put her off... You know her..... And she has been so unwell with this anorexia thing going on, the nasty divorce... You know that..." she whispered, almost as not to be overheard by the walls.
"Dina just wants to come around to sniff at some of the dirt she has been hearing! She doesn't give a shit about me! And as for the divorce, she should've kept her bony legs closed to extra marital traffic..." I retorted
"Marco! You two grew up together! Come on now.... You don't know what happened there... Give the poor woman a chance! She is family after all!"
"Mmmhh... She is the slutty part of the family, but If you say so." I replied, unconvinced.
"She is the only one that always asks me if I have new pictures of Gabriel to show her! She means well..."
"Mum, knowing her, she is only checking those pictures to see if Gabriel manages to stay gorgeous as he grows up or is growing warts like she does on her genitals.... I bet she menstruates gravel out of sheer envy every time you show her some new photos..."
"Gosh, how have I raised such a bitch?" mum exclaimed wide eyed.
We looked at each other for a second and bursted out laughing.
"What's so funny?" Steven asked joining us in the bedroom to unpack.
"Mum just called me a bitch to my face..." I added in an amused tone
"Well, would you prefer she keeps on doing it behind your back?" he concluded winking at my mum as we started unpacking.

Mum and dad had arranged for us to sleep in their room, with Gabriel's cot just at the foot of our bed.
She had emptied all her wardrobe and moved their stuff into my old bedroom to make room for our things. We were chuffed.
Obviously, Steven's polite protest was met with my mum's resolute exclamation:
"You need to be comfortable! You have a baby now! Anyway, I don't understand a word you're saying, your italian is still terrible" and winked at me whilst Steven kissed her.
I love my mum and dad.

After a quick freshen up, Gabriel was duly fed and put to bed, leaving us adults to enjoy a grand (albeit late) dinner.
Oh Lord! The sweet taste of refined carbs! Our wonderful small village bread! Mum's fennel potatoes! The polenta cake! The arancini with mushrooms and the turkey meatballs......
Oh the sinfulness of it all!
In Italy when we sit around the table, it's not just to eat. It's a family event where we come together as a clan, the old generations and the new, all passing plates to each other, all talking to each other, whilst stuffing our faces.
My mum had been cooking for a season in preparation of our week long visit.
She had every intention to feed us and I had every intention to be fed!

I love my parents house. I love the way it smells. There is this familiar scent of fresh linen and garden herbs. It brings me back in time when I would stroll bare feet from my bedroom to the kitchen table to have breakfast, carrying a little pillow to prop myself up on the chair.
After I moved to London, my mum transformed my bedroom into a shrine to my childhood. All my artwork has found a place on the walls, some of the surviving paste sculptures are displayed on the dated furniture and all my diplomas and school awards are framed for all to see.
I was not physically there anymore, but I was everywhere!
In a sort of kaleidoscope of my life, next to the drawings of a primary school boy appeared my first fashion sketches, the 'freedom for cannabis' postcards of a wannabe rebel teenager and the tickets of some memorable night out clubbing.
"Isn't it time to clear out some of that clutter?" I taunted my mum, whilst attacking another slice of polenta cake
"Don't you dare!" she snapped back "You'll see, in time you'll do exactly the same with Gabriel... You can't even bear to get rid of his stained bibs!"
She was right. So far I haven't managed to throw anything away, the clothes far too small, the bibs badly stained, even the first set of feeding spoons.... I can't bear to part with any of it. For now.
I guess it's a way to hold on to an unseizable present, we hold on to it until it becomes past, and then cling on to the memories we saved, in their faded plastic and in their stained cloth, to remind us that they were once real.
Oh but what the hell!
One day I'll have to de-clutter as well. But not yet.

After dinner, we helped mum clear up and we sat on the sofa with a nice glass of home made Limoncello Cream. Mum makes it using organic milk, organic lemons from the garden, sugar and alcohol. It's something that keeps you up at night, in the sense that once you open the bottle, you wont go to bed until it's empty.
As we drank ourselves to merriment, she gave me briefly the latest updates on the family:

- Dina is no longer anorexic, but the protracted illness left her with a nasty face twitch that occurs every time she gets stressed or embarrassed. (That I would love to see...)
- My aunt Valeria, the queen of poor dental hygiene, has finally lost all her teeth and she keeps herself locked up in the house as she is ashamed of herself, leaving my mum to do all of her food shopping although she has a 30 years old daughter that still lives with her.
- My next door neighbor Paola (a grandmother of three...) that I have known all my life, is going through a female version of midlife crisis and she wears skintight clothing and revealing shirts, with the intention of arousing the "attentions" of Lino, another neighbor of theirs, also married and the grandfather of 150 children which, being an old pig himself, is only too happy to oblige. (This last bit of news really disgusted me because I know very well both of them, and their respective husband and wife, and their children with whom I grew up...).

My simultaneous translation of mum's report had Steven in stitches. I was also cackling away like an old hen.
He must find my family so entertaining, and in a way I think we are.
But it was now approaching one in the morning, the Limoncello was running low and so we went to bed, stuffed and exhausted.