It is our first road trip together, just the two of us, this fellow and I, and I consider that fact briefly as we climb into our seats. Is there something more I should have done to prepare, I wonder–but, too late now. We are traveling in my quirky little car, a privilege he has been requesting for some time, so he is upbeat as we settle in for departure.
“Found my cupholder!” he declares as he wedges his moist, cool, open can down into it, no spill, amazingly, in sight. He enjoys the view for a block or two, then leans in to peruse the dashboard. “We need gas,” he observes, repeating for emphasis, “you know that, right? We need gas?”
I think we can get there fine, I assure him cheerfully, so we’ll stop on the way back.
This resolved, he quickly moves on. “Is there any music in this car?” he inquires, and I freeze briefly again, thinking that at this stage in our relationship I should know his musical tastes but, alas, do not. What kind of music do you like?
“Loud,” and this is firm, clear, delivered without pause. “I like loud music.” Something upbeat, I’m thinking, so I punch the selector on a playlist of classic R&B and wrench the volume knob to the upward range. “No,” he shakes his head sorrowfully, “that’s not loud. I want LOUD music,” amplifying his own vocals for emphasis.
I can feel myself beginning to tense up, unable to discern what is desired, wondering why male travel preferences must be both universal and unattainable for their co-piloting females. And this male is four years old, delivering his personal travelogue requests from the securely buckled environs of his toddler booster in the backseat. I am–not four, but we are connected by generations and genetics that should enable me, his G-ma, to divine his every desire and thought.
Before we can resolve the music dilemma, he slams home the Travel Trifecta (cupholder, music, and…). “I’m hungry. Really, really, hungry.” At last! A contingency for which I am prepared. I hand back a banana, which vanishes with astonishing speed, then a small bag of tiny peanut butter crackers. These restore the spiritual equilibrium for the time being, and he turns his attention to our destination. “I’ve never been to an apple festival before,” he observes seriously. “What do they do there?”
The dashboard clock declares that seven minutes of the one-hour drive have elapsed. Surely he’ll nap for a bit before long, I reassure myself, as I deliver the old sales pitch on the adventure that is forthcoming.
Well, there are lots of apples, all different kinds, and some big slides to play on, and fried apple pies, and some goats you can feed…
But before I can finish my Rockwellian portrait of the afternoon ahead, comes the Traditional, the Inevitable, the Universal: