Friday, December 30, 2011

Not Enough or The Ghosts of Christmases Past

Last night my Mom hosted a little shindig with some of our closest friends, hers and mine. I’ve mentioned before how we’ve moved around a fair bit, and although I lived in Houston for nigh on twelve years it just so happened that many, if not most, of my friends moved around a fair bit too. The result of all this moving and shaking is that I have very, very few childhood friends.

But yesterday I got to spend the evening with some of my best friends in Houston, some of which I’d lost contact with for a few years and others that I’d kept up with despite the distance in both time and space. It made me feel like a whole person again and yet it made me feel all broken apart too. Each of them had an anecdote, a memory of my family, of the person I was before the person I’ve become. And I wonder what they see now. Am I still some version of the girl they knew? Or have I morphed into a completely different human being?

I’ve only been here a week, and yet, I’ve already started getting a bit melancholic for the life that could have been. I’ve always suffered from the “what ifs”, and now, now that my family’s changed, now that my mom lives here permanently again, now that (due to the husband’s health situation) I likely never will live here again, now I feel them more than ever. What if I hadn’t gone to Italy for University, what if I hadn’t married the husband and stayed there, what if I’d come home sooner, what if he hadn’t had leukemia, what could have been of this life I live?

When you grow up in a multi-ethnic household, when you live here and there and everywhere you end up always feeling a little lost. I’m not Italian, I’m not Brazilian, I’m not American, I’m a little bit of everything and a little bit of nothing and it’s hard to stick a definition on it. It’s hard for me to stick a definition on myself, it’s hard to find something that fits. I spend so much of my time in Italy daydreaming about coming to America, about coming home, that it surprises me that when I finally get here I could possibly be so adrift. All the insecurities of the child I was, the child that arrived from Italy, with her loud, vivacious, oh so Italian father and her exotic mother, the child that spoke with a heavy British accent, that struggled to fit in, all those insecurities of years spent never really fitting in come rushing back to the surface.

Starting the year like this frightens me. Always wondering if I’ve done enough in the past, if I’m doing enough right now, if I am enough as I am, it’s tiring and scary and very, very unsettling at my age. Am I pretty enough, am I thin enough, am I elegant enough, am I intelligent enough, am I interesting enough, am I well-read and well-bred enough, am I loving enough, am I compassionate enough, am I patient enough…. I could go on and on and on, and the answer to most of those questions is no. 

It’s a little bit sad and a little bit startling to me that when faced with the ghosts of Christmases past the thought that underlies all my emotions, my words and my actions, at the end of the day is am I good enough? And I don’t like the answer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I should probably drink more and think less

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about family lately, what with being presented with all the changes in mine. Although really the changes have happened in my family of origin, not the family I’ve spawned (funny to see the word spawn in a non alien-y context, huh?) so it shouldn’t really faze me, and yet it still kind of does, further proof of the fact that we never really stop being children (as in offspring, not immature) even when we’re parents in our own right.

So, you see, I’ve found that it’s a bit unsettling to see someone who’s not my dad at the head of the table. I’ve written before how happy I am, and how relieved, that my mom has found love again and that she’s started this new chapter in her life. And yet it is harder for me to deal with the reality than I would have thought. Part of it is probably due to the fact that I don’t live near my mom, we only see each other once or twice a year and that I’ve been a tad self absorbed lately (what with the husband’s leukemia and all) and probably I would have been unsettled anyway because it’s hard to be in Houston for Christmas without my Dad being around (although it’s been five years since he passed).

The whole dynamic has changed, though my Mom is still my mom her husband is no longer my Dad, it’s actually a person I barely know and who barely knows me, so the holidays are rife with more formality and less familiarity. I feel like a guest in my Mom’s house. And, though no one is making me feel like a guest, everyone’s been extremely welcoming, I’m constantly thinking of how potentially annoying we are, how noisy and rambunctious the kids, how much space we occupy all five of us. Thoughts I never would have had if my Dad were here because when you’re visiting your parent’s house as a child (again adult offspring) you assume you’re welcome, you know that though you may be annoying your parents would rather have you than not. I’m not saying this thought process is necessarily healthy or just, but when dealing with one’s own parents we do tend to have a much more developed sense of entitlement than not.

It’s also extremely strange to see how my Mother herself has changed. This is, of course, inevitable because she’s living her daily reality with a new person and our most intimate relationships inevitably influence and change us in one way or another. We adjust to the other person in our lives, we develop new mannerisms and new habits. Rationally I understand how this is so, and yet it freaks me out just a little bit to see this new, changed version of my mother. Because as children we expect our parents to always be just the way they are.

And it all feels a bit surreal and unexpected.

I hope I’m not coming off as childish or petulant. I like my Mom’s husband, he’s a great guy, I just didn’t really expect to miss my Dad quite so much, so long after his passing. The things we learn about ourselves around the holidays…

Now pass me the wine.

Linking up today with Shell at Things I can't say.

This and that

We’ve been in Houston for a week now and I’ve just been absorbing stuff like a sponge. It’s so strange to be here. Everything’s changed, everything’s the same.

It’s amusing to me that I’ve been asked more than once how I’m finding my way around, do I need directions, do I have a TomTom… the answers are just fine; no, thank; and yes, yes I do. It’s amusing because I grew up here, I learned to drive here, my mom lives in the same part of town and none of the major landmarks have moved, so why I would have a hard time getting around is beyond me. Concurrently, though, I haven’t been here in three years so sometimes if I have to get somewhere I don’t remember the most efficient route, I’ll think of the roads I would have taken from my old neighborhood but I won’t remember how to get there from where I am right now. That feels a bit weird. Also, some friends have moved to neighborhoods where I have never been before (Houston is BIG) so going there I do get lost, I’d probably get lost even if I had lived here all these years though too.

Readjusting to family life has been hard. This is the first time I’ve spent Christmas in Houston since my Dad died, this makes it strange for me on many levels. First of all, since my Dad died this is only the third Christmas I’ve spent with my family, the first one was in Rome the year he died – that wasn’t a very jolly holiday season – and the second one was at my place right before the boy was born as I was too pregnant to travel. This year we had Christmas with my Mom, her new husband and his children (which, incidentally, sounds weird as we are all adults, should I have amended to “his adult children” which would have been oxymoronic at best, or possibly I could have used the word offspring, which always sounds to me like we’re talking more of animals than humans). It’s mind boggling to me to have stepsiblings at this stage in my life. Thankfully we don’t have the whole room/bathroom sharing, who do you love more, I hate you, drama that we probably would have had had we been teenagers, but still, it’s odd to find yourself spending family holidays with a slew of new family members that you don’t really know.

I am remarkably set in my ways. I like doing things my way. I like the pace of my family life, which is totally incompatible with the pace of my mom’s family life. This was predictable, as I grew up with her and thus know how things work around here, and yet it surprises me every time. It’s particularly hard to be laid back and go with the flow with children (the small, young variety) in tow. I’m using compromise, some deep breathing and the concept of “no, today I’m going to do it my way hope I don’t offend anyone” to get through it. I suspect my mother’s doing the same on her end.
These are some random thoughts of the day and two cute pictures from Christmas morning (for your viewing pleasure). 

The Girl, the Husband and the Boy

The Girl and I

Linking up with Amy from Lucky Number 13 today for Virtual Coffee, although this isn't technically a coffee post it's still our last tuesday of 2011 and I'm sentimental about this kind of stuff!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holy jet-lag Batman, we made it to Houston

My children are complete angels. There I said it and have now quite probably jinxed myself for eternity (and beyond) but my two children, despite all evidence to the contrary, are two perfect angels.

We left on Monday afternoon for Paris where we spent the night before our long-haul flight to Houston, and we had no meltdowns. None, nada, nisba. We had no meltdowns despite the fact that they were tired, in a completely unfamiliar situation and we were stressed. Though we slept in the airport hotel, we still somehow managed to arrive at security check a bit late, we got in the wrong line, for the wrong gate, we had to retrace our steps, get to the right gate and then the husband realized he had left some pretty critical meds in the hotel fridge. We frantically called the hotel, apparently getting meds beyond passport control is harder that it would appear. But we needed those meds so he took off with a sympathetic Air France employee (rarer than one would think) to get his meds, I took off for security (again) with the kids and the nanny and enough hand luggage for a soccer team, oh, and a temperamental stroller that wouldn’t fold. All this happened fifteen minutes before the plane was supposed to take off (not board, take off). I’m not good under pressure.
And yet the kids? No meltdowns. I’m shocked. Also, now I know that they can be expected to deal serenely with quite a bit of stress, so I’m not taking any more random whining  or tantrums at the supermarket.

Arriving in Houston after three and a half years has been a bit unsettling. Things have changed just enough for everything to look and feel familiar, but just slightly off somehow, kind of like I stepped into a parallel universe. Now I’m going to be freaking out about being in a parallel universe, by the way.

That’s it for now, as I’m dealing with jet-lag (my own and four other people’s). Also, my children are angels.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sometimes I just need to randomly write drivel of the top of my head, ok?

I’m sitting here trying to type with the pads of my fingers because despite having worked at or around a Spa for the past six years I can’t ever seem to get a manicure and a wax, for love nor money, when I need one. So I’m hairy-legged (not that that’s anything new) and smudgy because, alas, I’m going to a wedding with the husband tomorrow and though I can disguise my hairiness with some heavy opaque tights or pants I simply do not feel festive without bright red nail polish.

As usual when I travel, I’m at that point in the packing process where it looks like a tornado hit the house and I’m never, ever going to manage to get everything into my allotted suitcases. This point exhausts me, but I’m hanging onto the thought that with or without my bags I will be on the plane next week, for dear life and that’s what’s going to get me through the weekend.

Did I mention it’s supposed to snow at the wedding venue tomorrow? We haven’t seen snow since a short burst of wintertime impetus from the weather in October and now it’s going to snow. How’s that for Murphy’s law? Of course the wedding will be held in a mountain town, because it’s eminently reasonable to plan a destination wedding in the Alps in December. Also, it’s midnight and I have no clue what I’m wearing. At least my nail polish is catchy.

The Husband turned forty today. I’ve been planning a recap post of his party last Saturday all week and have yet to get around it, it’s like this wedding, the last minute Christmas shopping, and our imminent trip have completely taken over my few remaining brain cells.  But I needed to acknowledge his birthday today because forty is kind of a big deal. Although, I always thought fifty was the real big deal, what with it being half a century and all, but he disagrees. Apparently, forty is the biggest deal of all, in fact he mentioned he had to start thinking about my fortieth party now, four years ahead of time. Really honey, forty’s not that big a deal.

I have a completely unhealthy co-dependent relationship with Nutella. In fact, I feel an irrepressible urge to go have some right now, kind of like I’m a werewolf and Nutella’s the moon.
And I think Nutella’s a good note on which to end this completely useless post. This is how my brain works. I’m sorry.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Virtual Coffee {31} and a cupful of happy

Hello dear friends, welcome to coffee.

I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed lately. We’re leaving in less than a week, my Christmas shopping is so not done, I have to pack for, well, everybody, I have to choose between the eight gazillion pre-Christmas activities going on this week, I want to say bye to my friends, and the kids want a few playdates to see their friends, and we have to go to a wedding this weekend which means I actually don’t have until Monday to do all this but Friday. Ahem, I just realized this today. Let’s just say that last week’s relaxed, mellow attitude has definitely gone out the window to be replaced by total panic and hysteria. Anyone have some Xanax?

But I refuse to mar my favorite season of the year with all this nail biting so this week’s virtual coffee is all about the HAPPY!

So if we were really having coffee today, I would have to tell you how HAPPY I am that despite all evidence to the contrary I managed to pull off my Husband’s 40th birthday party. It was murder mystery themed, and we had a blast. There were five actors (an inspector and four suspects) and we had fun investigating, asking question and coming up with murder scenarios. Might I also add that my table won and the husband’s table was singled out for their totally, shall we say fantastical, interpretation of the facts. Mean of me? Maybe, but a little competition is a good thing in a marriage. (Especially when I win!)

I’m also HAPPY that it appears we’ve managed to resolve some of the issues with the Boy’s preschool, so I don’t have to pull him out of there in a huff and hurriedly look for something new in February when we get back. I may have the tendency to get ahead of myself when I think my kids are unhappy in a situation. It’s the mother bear syndrome.

And lastly, I’m insanely, unimaginably, infinitely HAPPY that I’m going home next week. Have I mentioned this already, perchance? Are you sick of me talking about Houston yet? Well next week, when I’m home I’ll stop talking about how excited I am to be going home. And then I’ll start complaining about my mother and you’ll get a month and a half of that. Lucky you!

I’m linking up today with Amy from Lucky Number 13 as usual for Virtual Coffee and with Angie at My So-called Chaos who is temporarily hosting My Happy List (by Dandelion Wishes).


Deep in the heart of Texas - Monday Listicles

I am once again participating in Stasha’s listicles this week we’re supposed to write ten things about our hometown. Up until last week I would have had a really hard time figuring out which city to write about. Rome, where I was born but haven’t lived in since I was itty bitty and frankly I don’t even like or know it that much? Milan, where I went to university, met my husband and started my “adult” life? Cuneo, where I live now, doesn’t even come close to being the place I consider home though it’s home for my kids (mind boggling)? No, no and no. 

Talking with my therapist a few weeks ago I excitedly told him I was going home for Christmas, and he asked, confused, where exactly I thought home was. Houston, Houston is where my heart is, Houston is HOME. And I’m going home for Christmas y’all, so this writing prompt couldn’t have come at a better time.

So here are my ten things you should know about Houston, from the perspective of a girl who hasn’t lived there in too many years.

1. Every one Sir and Ma’am’s you. In fact, people are polite, and nice, and generally smiley. I miss that so much.

2. The traffic is terrifying. It was barely manageable when I was a teenager many moons ago, nowadays I will not leave the house during peak traffic hours… it just seems that peak traffic hours are almost around the clock. In fact, I’m kind of worried cause one of my best friends in Houston lives way on the other side of town from my Mom so I’m wondering if I’m going to have to go visit her at 6am to avoid getting stuck on the freeway till my old age.

3. There’s a thriving international community. There are people of all nationalities; in fact, there’s a French school (which I attended) where you follow the French curriculum K-12 entirely in French.

4. The weather is almost more terrifying than the traffic. Which is a good thing or everyone would want to live there. I still remember the feeling of the hot, heavy, humid air on my body when I first stepped out of the airport as a kid when we moved there. It felt like I was walking around in a jar of hot molasses.

5. To compensate for the insufferable heat, the A/C is always turned down to hypothermia levels. Now that I no longer live there and have thawed out I need to wear a sweater everywhere I go. So to recap, if it’s summer you want to be wearing the least amount of clothes possible outside, and a sweater and socks inside, if it’s winter you want to be wearing jeans, flip flops and a light sweatshirt outside and possibly a coat, scarf and gloves inside.

6. Everything is bigger and more badass. Particularly the cockroaches. I promise you, you have NEVER seen cockroaches this large, and no, I don’t care if you live in NYC, you have us beat on rats, sure, but not roaches. Our roaches are so big you can put a saddle on ‘em and ride ‘em off into the sunset.

7. Another insect related one: mosquitos and fire ants. I have never seen fire ants in Europe, and for this I am thankful.

8. It’s close to the beach. Not a great beach by any stretch of the imagination, but you can get to Galveston and dip your toes in the water in a relatively short amount of time if you feel the need to get out of the city.

9. It’s got great entertainment. Entertainment I’m going to fully take advantage of starting next week.

10. Houston steals your heart. I’m not really from there, as neither I nor my parents were born there, but I grew up there. The childhood and young adulthood years are the ones that shape you, and this wonderful city, with all it’s contradictions, is in my heart more than any other place where I’ve pitched my tent these past 36 years. And I’m going NEXT WEEK! 


I just wanted to add that I had a list in my drafts folder for a post I wanted to write about the things I missed the most and the least about Texas. This is what was on my list: Things I miss the most – Friends, sir – ma’am, politeness, A/C, big houses, cowboys, rodeo, whole foods market, tex-mex, real margaritas
Things I don’t miss about Texas: Cockroaches, Mosquitos, insane traffic, Insane urban planning, fire ants, water moccasins.

Now I guess I don’t even need to write that other post.