Wednesday, May 03, 2006

And bambina makes three

Aaand we’re back with the previously advertised final instalment of my Neapolitan narrative…

Travel broadens the mind, right? But let’s not forgot G.K. Chesterton’s addendum to that hoary old saw: “They say travel broadens the mind; but you must have the mind." And there ain’t no mind like the mind of a 19-month old little girl on her first holiday.

As usual, Buttercup impressed the hell out of me. Cabin pressure didn’t bother her in the slightest as our flight ascended and descended. At one point, she wiggled her little finger into her ear to indicate a minor discomfort, but that was all. And all around us, the other tykes in the air were wailing and screaming in agony as their tiny little eardrums popped. Buttercup couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about…

Another thing about travelling with a little child? You can never have too many pockets. Pockets are your friends. A jacket with lots of pockets is like the Minivan of clothing. In addition to the detritus of your own existence (wallet, keys, mobile phone, etc.), you have all the additional pockets you need for toys and books and, most importantly, tissues. You can never, ever have too many tissues. Tissues are also your friends. Banish spillages! Vanquish runny noses! Destroy the crumbly remnants of snacks that besmirch the face of your first-born! (Also? Mrs. AKA can get through more wipes in a day than Adrian Monk.)

From what I could see, Italians absolutely adore children. People just could not get enough of Buttercup. Waiters would smile and make noises and funny faces at her. Cleaners would scoop her up and kiss our little bambina, to her delight. If the same thing had happened in the UK, I would have been screaming "Take your stinkin’ hands off her, you damn dirty ape!" But in Sorrento, it felt like a totally normal and natural thing. It’s all about context…

Buttercup quickly got used to having all eyes turn to her, and big smiling faces looming over her. She’ll get over it after a few weeks back in the UK. When she smiles at a stranger here, and doesn’t get a smile in return, she scowls back at them.

It was amazing to hear her vocabulary slowly expanding. Her repertoire of familiar phrases like “up and down” and “thank you muchy” were joined by “ciao” and “grazie” by the time we left. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard my daughter say “grazie”.

One word she struggles with is “banana”. She really tries, but whatever she says, it always sounds like “dumbass”. (Which is interesting when we are out in public, and she looks at me and says “DUMBASS!”. My wife sometimes does the same thing, but for entirely different reasons). One afternoon, sitting by the pool, her desire for dumbass was so powerful, that she crammed far-too-large a piece of banana into her mouth and, very quickly, undigested banana spattered against the concrete at my feet. (Note: This is one of the many occasions when you can never, ever have too many tissues.)

Before I had a chance to scoop up and dispose of the banana glop on the floor, a small lizard skittered out from behind a plant, clamped the regurgitated dumbass between its teeth, and quickly ran off again.

You don’t see that kind of thing every day. And that’s just one of the many joys of getting another part of the world under your feet. To see the new things. Even if sometimes that’s only a lizard eating a banana that your daughter just puked up.

On our final morning in Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius was invisible. Hidden behind a haze of cloud and mist, the volcano had decided to say goodbye to us before we had a chance to say goodbye to it. But that’s OK. We’ll see it again one day…

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