Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not Just in Milwaukee

I've just had another one of those "it-doesn't-get-any-better-than-this" moments.  The details of the situation are this:

I was taking Joe, Maddy, and Olivia back to their mother's for the week.  Never fun.  I miss them, I hate being "out of touch" with them, and I would love to be there to hear their stories each day they hopped off the schoolbus.  They are not always excited about going back either.  Whether it's because of another school week, or because they miss us as much as we miss them, it's usually a very quiet ride.  Plus, it's not a "Wawa run."  This is some serious, get comfortable,set the Cruise Control driving.  Gas is over $2.60 per gallon, toll is $4.00, my time on Sunday evening -- priceless.  And the route has some of the worst roads I've ever driven!  Add that to the construction they are doing which forces three lanes of traffic into two cattle shoots over grated roads, and you have something similar to sliding down a six mile flight of stairs in a cardboard box!  At age eight I would have been amused...

The reality of the situation is this:

I had some of the people I love the most gathered around me for a full two hours -- just us, no distractions, talking, sharing the ride.  Being in the car is one of the best ways to witness your children interacting with each other.  It's close quarters, no one can stomp off to their room in a huff, and for some bizarre reason, sitting in the front seat makes you virtually invisible -- it's as if they completely forget you are there, and they say precisely what they would say were you not less than two feet from them! 

Olivia and Madison were in the very back row talking and playing a game.  Joe and Christine were in the middle.  Joe had turned on the overhead light under the pretense he was going to work on a history assignment.  The warm orange glow of the light behind me made the night ahead seem like pitch, but it lit up each face near me as if only we existed.  Eventually Joe had joined Christine in a computer game and they were engrossed in a miniscule world of make-believe, American history all but forgotten.

My mother was with me in the front seat; she had joined us for dinner -- one of our more raucous gatherings -- and decided to take the ride afterward.  She and I chatted freely on the way home, much like we did on some of our previous roadtrips when Steven and Christine were young.

From time to time, someone would complain of undesirable odors emanating from the back seat, or ask for a piece of gum or a drink of water.  We helped Olivia spell words like "cup" and "fish," then asked her to find them on pieces of the Halloween candy she'd brought with her.  It wasn't the cacophony of dinner just a short time before, but the humor, the frivolity, the familiarity was there.

I thought about the many times I just wished someone would master the technique of changing the empty toilet paper roll, or imagined what it would be like to grab my keys and head toward the front door without hearing a littany of voices beg "C'nigo?"  I smiled and shook my head.  Nope.  Times like these make it all worth it; I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

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