Antonio and I recently got back from a trip to Cincinnati, which is where he is from. We spent a week in Cincy, eating our way through the city's best offerings in the form of Skyline Chili, Frisch's Big Boy bacon cheeseburgers, Montgomery Inn barbeque, and Graeter's ice cream. (I should also mention that we started exercising more and watching what we ate immediately upon assessing the damage shown by the bathroom scale when we got home!) In addition to the culinary delights, we got to enjoy the visual splendor of fall's foliage that covered the rolling hills surrounding the beautiful skyline of the Queen City and the banks of the Ohio River. What a perfect time to experience the city!
More importantly, though, I got to spend a lot of time with Antonio's family. I had already met his mom and four siblings, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. I met Antonio's stepdad, uncles, cousins, grandparents, lifelong friends, and more. We went to his brother's last two high school soccer games, cheered on his QB cousin at a football game, golfed nine holes with another cousin (who, at 13 years old, beat me handily), watched a play put on by the Cincinnati Children's Theater (where his mom works), went to the restaurant where his sister was waiting tables, took another sister shopping and then had "brinner" (breakfast for dinner) for her birthday, picked up all the siblings at school for ice cream, and hosted a ping-pong tournament open to friends and family and that lasted for several hours while NFL football played in the background.
We spent a lot of time with Antonio's family, and it was amazing to watch the way he gets along with everyone in his family. He is an amazing son, big brother, grandson, cousin, and nephew. Antonio's family is large, but close. It reminded me of my family, if we were set in a big city instead of a small town. His family home, like mine, is within walking distance of other relatives, with more a short drive away. Maybe this is part of the reason I felt so at home there, like I was with my own family. I'm sure another part of that is the type of activities we engaged in -- cooking together, going through old photo albums with Antonio's grandma, and running errands with various family members were all in the mix on top of the sporting events and meals out.
Antonio will be coming home with me to Iowa for Thanksgiving in a couple weeks, and I hope he enjoys his visit as much as I enjoyed mine. I've been making plans for things to do and places to take him in Iowa. Regardless of what he thinks of the sights and tastes of Iowa, though, the most important thing is that I want him to come home feeling like he's been somewhere he belongs, with people he enjoys, and that he wants to come back. I want Iowa to feel like home to him the way Ohio felt like home to me.