Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Car Talk and Driveway Moments

I am helpless when it comes to directions; my internal compass rose is something more like a wildflower.  Driving through town today with Pax as my co-captain, I turned on the GPS to help me navigate through the confusing grid of streets.  Yet as I got my bearings, I didn't like the route that Amelia was giving me (my nickname for the Garmin), so I ventured off the beaten path.

"Turn left, then turn left!" Amelia implored when she sensed my detour.

"Turn left, then turn left!" she repeated, with urgency uncommon in a pre-programmed voice.

"Turn left, THEN TURN LEFT!!!"  my co-captain shouted from the back seat.  TURN LEFT, THEN TURN LEFT!!"  

I love that stop-me-in-my-tracks feeling when Pax so clearly articulates a new phrase, a new mimic, a new command.  I love the tiny, careful, deliberate voice that fills the quiet of my days at home.  On our adventures around town, I love our car talk.

(...and yet, might I add, I feel equal parts awe - and exasperation - with the fact that even nearly-3-year-old Pax believes the electronic gadget is smarter than his very own mother. Humph.)

NPR published a book of stories titled "Driveway Moments."  They're the stories that make you sit in your car after you've arrived at your destination.  You stay and listen, because you can't bear not knowing the end.  I love these driveway moments.

Similarly, I've begun to enjoy the fleeting moments in the car that are filled with insight and information from a budding tween.  This age group, and especially teens, are notorious for clamming up despite your best open-ended questions - yet seem to come alive, miraculously talkative and uninhibited, when trapped traveling in a car.  Yesterday, I could tell that Aidan was troubled by something, but I couldn't figure out what it was, despite my best queries.  On the way to karate, just the two of us in the car, he was quiet, then asked, "So there wasn't a plane that hit the White House, right?" I instantly knew what lay so heavy on his heart.  At school, they had discussed the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, and he was desperately trying to make sense of it.  I felt so torn, wanting Aidan to feel safe and protected, yet wanting Aidan to emerge from our shelter just a bit, to begin to learn of the injustice, the hatred, the sorrow, the reality of the grown up world. He asked questions; I answered them as best I could in that driveway moment. 

Another day, on another ride, Aidan asked me, "Do you think that animals have souls?"  I stammered and stuttered, trying to explain my answer, feeling inadequate and unprepared.  My driveway moment came to a screeching halt - you know, the kind where you go just a little too fast into the parking spot, and everyone holds their breath to see if you're going to hit something...?  Later, the next morning, I broached the question again, more prepared this time with an answer.  He was eager, receptive, ready to talk again, ready to share his perspective.  We swapped our favorite pet stories, wondered aloud about where pets of the past might be, before unceremoniously segueing back into the morning routine: did you make your bed?  where are your shoes?  Please close that door behind you.  Keep your hands to yourself!  Put that stick down!  Pax, stop hitting your brother!  Come on, we are going to miss the bus if we don't hurry!    

Oh, I love these driveway moments.

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