“I want to go home,” Leo says. “I want to go home.”
His voice has become hoarse from saying it over and over. He looks at me with the kind of urgency that breaks my heart.
“We are home.” I say, with all the excitement I can muster. “This is our new house and this is your new cool room and your new big boy bed.”
“No, my real home,” he says. His tiny voice lifts into the air and bounces wildly off the walls in our barely furnished home. “The other one. The real one.”
Those words shatter my heart completely. Leo runs off gripping his dollar store dinosaurs in his hand; the throbbing of his chest echoing in the hallway.
It’s bedtime. The sky is so dark it has turned purple. The night is rich with stars; there is rustling of palm branches outside and in the dim downstairs there is a 3-year-old hiding, heavy with homesickness.
Leo didn’t believe me, and I didn’t believe me either. We have had this same conversation too many times before; first when we moved out of our Vancouver home and into a hotel, later when we rented a house in California for a family vacation, then when we went to D.C. for a month for my husband’s job, and now finally, three months later, here in Mexico.
For the last few months our life has been spoken in the language of luggage, airport terminals, packing and unpacking. With each move I tried to sell our new home; its newness, the pool, going to Disneyland, and if all else failed we’d take a walk to the neighborhood dollar store and buy a dinosaur. Leo’s new stegosaurus or diplodocus would buy us a temporary distraction from our next impending move – but homesickness is not linear; it moves in waves and swells, and without warning Leo would suddenly be overcome with sadness.
Three months and 32 dinosaurs later, we are slowly carving out our new life in Merida, but Leo still has moments of intense nostalgia and longs for the only home he has known.
Before kids, moving was exciting and sexy; my husband and I felt like jetsetters conquering new exotic places. Our biggest worry was making sure we had a wide assortment of tight speedos. Parenthood changes everything, and at times my emotions parallel those of my 3-year-old son. This move is more than simply missing the familiarity and beauty of Canada. It means not being sure, when we walk in the downtown plaza, if I can hold my husband’s hand. It means not being sure how people will react when I say, “This is my husband.” It means being one of the few, or the only, queer family in the city.
We are learning about our new home slowly and with more caution than I’m used to. I’m certain that we will learn many lessons as we start our new adventure but for now, our biggest challenge is getting Leo to bed and ultimately helping him take ownership of this new house, new language, and new life.
I find Leo downstairs playing in the living room. I pick him up, along with an armful of dinosaurs.
“Okay, Leo, time for bed. Let’s go to your new room,” I say, as I carry him upstairs. The weight of his body, the weight of his sadness, lightens with each step. His long limbs dangle across my back as tiny dinosaur horns press into my arm. I tuck him in and say, “Let’s say goodnight to the dinosaurs in Spanish.”
“Okay,” Leo replies. “Buenas noches, Triceratops. Buenas noches, Tiranosaurio. Buenas noches, Estegosaurio. Buenas noches, Pterodáctilo.”
His voice grows softer and softer as he drifts off to sleep surrounded by a tiny phalanx of brightly colored dinosaurs once again bringing him comfort.