This month, I don’t have any sort of overarching theme or anything, just a few observations as the leaves pile up in the yard, the air turns cooler and the year winds down.
Cars — they’re great, right? I love them, you love them, my little boy is now fully obsessed with them. And also cornbread. He ate a shocking amount of cornbread the other night.
But seriously, he’s just over-the-moon for four-wheeled vehicles. Probably nine mornings out of 10, the first word out of his mouth when I go to get him out of the crib is: “Car!” And then he points out the window, because hey, that’s where the cars are. They’re out there. Then we go back into mom and dad’s room and open the blinds and look at the cars outside.
We sit on the front porch swing a lot and watch the cars drive by. He dutifully points out each one. “Car,” he says, as the Camry or CRV or F-150 drives by. I love watching his face as he watches the cars go by. He stares with uncorrupted and utter fascination. I can imagine the little gears turning in his head. “What is that thing? It’s going so fast, that is awesome! Car!” And in the morning, he’s so excited because he’s been thinking and dreaming about cars all night long.
His amazement is not limited to actual vehicles. He points out drawings and photos of cars with equal gusto. He has a picture book with a car on the front. He pulls that book off the shelf and lays it on the floor and just hammers his forefinger onto the car, going “Car! Car! Car!”
There’s a purity and a simplicity to his amazement that is beautiful to me. I often wish that I could be that enthralled with something. Then I remember that I am, and that it’s him. And then I remember that it won’t always be like that. He’ll get older, and cars will likely become less captivating. And while I’ll always love him, it’ll get more complicated. He’ll misbehave and test me. We’ll have arguments. I’ll have to ground him. He’ll be a teenager someday and he’ll tell me that I don’t understand, that I don’t know what it’s like. And he won’t be able to appreciate that I do understand and I do know what it’s like.
But all that’s quite a ways off yet. For the time being, we’ll sit on the porch and watch the cars go by.
Being a parent often leads you to say — or scream, as the case may be — combinations of words that would probably sound funny to an impartial observer, things like, “Where the @#$% is Mr. Bunny!?!” or “I need a clean nipple! Why are all these nipples dirty?”
The flipside of this is that once your young’uns start to talking, they’ll say all manner of crazy, mortifying things in front of strangers. I remember back in probably the spring of 1983, we’d taken a vacation down to San Antonio. As we were filling up the car at a gas station and getting ready to head back home, my younger brother realized that we’d left his pillow, “Baby” was its name, back at the hotel. This naturally caused a Stage Five Meltdown, with my brother sobbing at top volume, “We left Baby at the hotel! We left Baby at the hotel! We have to go get him!” My poor parents had to explain to the wide-eyed couple at the next gas pump that “Baby” was actually the name of a pillow and that there would be no need to jot down our license plate number to turn into DHS.
The other day, I had to run into Kroger for a few things. Those things were: diapers, toilet paper, beer and a frozen pizza. The lines were all long, even at the self-checkout. My wife and my boy were waiting out in the car. There was a guy in front of me, probably a couple years my senior, who had a full shopping cart. A spot had just opened up. He gave me a glance, saw what I had in my hand and said, “Hey man, go ahead.”
“Seriously?” I asked him.
“Yeah man,” he said. “I’ve been there.”
I said thanks and quickly paid for my stuff. It wasn’t a huge deal, just one of those small turns of kindness that can have a big effect on one’s opinion of the state of the world.