The short of it is: Drew is still calling me Mister Mommy, our PATS joke still holds water, and Madeline still remembers who gave her birth — despite the fact she has started calling me MOM like a 13-year-old. This began when we called home from our hotel in Rome. The babysitter put her on the phone and across the miles her gentle, gerbil voice came over the line with a simple, “Hi, MOM.” The child can’t ask for a glass of water but has achieved this nonchalant greeting of adolescence. Now it’s “Mom, this” and “Mom, that” like we are peers and she is biding her time until she gets her drivers license. So between Drew’s “Mister Mommy” and Madeline calling me MOM, I feel more like a character in my children’s life than the heartbeat of it.But it is good to be home. It’s folly to attempt to capture in one entry all that transpired in Italy — all there is to write about Italy! — and all that took place in my heart and mind while trudging over millennia-old paving stones and eating pizza topped with things like hard-boiled eggs and potatoes. Nothing dramatic happened stateside with the kids besides Madeline’s newfound worldliness, which was a blessing and a relief. As the days passed, visions of The Things’ faces grew clearer and almost painful in my head; I could almost taste their cheeks and smell their hair. I half expected to see a new gelato flavor — “The Things” — gracing the cold metal tins in street-side cafes, and I would have dug in gladly. I began to crave them almost as much as I began to crave guacamole, and when I saw them for the first time peeking shyly around the corner in my in-laws’ living room, I nearly cried.Life didn’t regain its composure for many, many days after our return. For one thing, Both Things had to readjust to their own rooms at home again and rediscover all the toys that had been left at home. This was jolly, and I mean that in the most Christmas-y way possible. For another thing, my show opened three days after our plane landed at D/FW, which required me to be gone every night for six evenings starting the day after we got back, coming home wearing false eyelashes and smelling like clinical-strength deodorant. It turns out that if you mix adrenaline, a new injection of dietary Tex-Mex, multiple 5-Hour Energies, and the terror of having missed rehearsals, it is actually not hard to surmount jet lag. If I do not collapse of a stroke or run off naked down the street some time in the next week, I will consider this experiment in pushing the limit to have been a success. The jury is still out.Today was the first really “normal” day since our return. I took Both Things to Party City to shop for Drew’s birthday party — a BOWLING party, at his own request. Of the 51,000 available birthday party themes at Party City, it turns out bowling did not make the cut. Sure, you can have an “Avengers” birthday party or even an “Ugly Dolls” birthday party. You can even have an entirely YELLOW birthday party or a casino birthday party or a Dallas Stars birthday party, but don’t come to Party City expecting to find bowling-pin shaped plates or Mylar balloons depicting a strike, or piñatas shaped like a scary dude smoking a cigarette. It’s just not going to happen. You’ll wander around thinking that surely the very NEXT aisle will have exactly what you’re looking for, but no. (Inexplicably, Party City DID happen to have bowling-themed invitations.) This is what I deserve for not spending 84 hours on Pinterest like the really good mothers of the world for whom Party City is a tacky cop-out.(I don’t know if bowling at a five-year-old birthday party is really a good idea or not, but all Drew wants to do any more is go bowling. His grandmother took him bowling almost every day we were gone to Italy, and now he is ready for championship-level play. “Mister Mommy, I’m a good bowler,” he has been saying. I was actually surprised when he told us tonight over dinner that he still wants to be a dentist when he grows up, not just because of his fear of dentists, but because dentists don’t seem to have a lot of extra time to shop for Charlie Sheen shirts.)It’s funny how you can go from tossing a Euro over your shoulder at the Trevi Fountain to tossing your two-year-old into a Party City shopping cart in only a matter of days. One minute you’re walking the roads of Caesar and the next you’re traversing 114 in your SUV. Life doesn’t stop and isn’t partial to location. I’m just glad to know that somewhere in the world, a man is scooping up a big bowlful of “stracciatella” gelato for a woman who is missing her kids. And that the woman isn’t me.
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