Chuck and I had to buy a bigger car this winter. Our small minivan-thing worked all right when it was just Junior and Everett, but if we wanted to go anywhere with all three kids, we'd have to move Junior to the third row "seat," which was more of a small crawlspace meant for people with accordian-style legs.
We ended up buying a used Nissan Armada which, despite its box-on-wheels appearance, has worked out quite nicely for us. We lovingly call it the Beast.
The downside, of course, is that if you get more space you tend to fill it with crap—which is just what happened. Strollers, bags, suitcases—even though no one's going anywhere—blankets, etc. You name it, it's in there.
I blame Chuck. He's a total hoarder in hiding.
It was his job, then, to empty the Beast this weekend so we could help a friend move a table. It was my job, later, to make sure it stayed empty. (And it did. Every time I saw Chuck walk toward the Beast holding something, I beat him with a stick.)
I did such a good job of beating Chuck that come Monday morning, the back of the Beast was still empty. When Everett, Cam and I picked Junior up from karate yesterday, Junior and Everett jumped over the seat into the way back and frolicked for a minute.
"It's so big back here!" they hooted.
I had a flashback. A beautiful, delicious flashback.
It was 1982. My cousin and I were in my grandfather's Subaru hatchback. In the way back. We were eight. He was speeding down the back roads of New Hampshire, windows open. Dust was flying. We were on our knees, beach sand digging into our skin. Our hair was in our mouths. He was probably going 45 but it felt like 80. We held onto the head rests of the back seat so we could get some air when he went over bumps. We were shrieking. He flew down hills. He careened around corners, knocking us into the sides of the car and into each other.
It was fucking good fun.
Fun my older children, ages eight and five, residents of the Land of Never-ending Safety, have never known.
I made a decision.
"Guys," I said, "you can stay back there."
Junior's head shot up. "What? No we can't! You'll get arrested."
"Junior, our house is literally around the corner." (It was. Around the corner.)
"We can't!" they both yelled.
"Ok," I said, "so don't. Come up front and buckle up."
"Wait!" Junior cried. "I don't know what to do."
"I'm telling you, it's okay. You're in a truck. Just don't stand up."
"Mom. Really? REALLY? This is going to be amazing!"
I drove slowly down the street. I heard them whispering, I can't believe we're doing this. I turned the corner, then another. I was about to turn down our street when I heard Junior say Aawwwwww.
I drove past the house and took the next corner a little harder. I cut the wheel harder into the next corner. Junior and Everett hooted and hollered from the back. When I got to the driveway I zigzagged back and forth—gently—then cut the wheel again.
We were home.
Junior jumped out and yelled "I feel so alive! I'm going to tell everyone!"
Fear shot through me. I remembered the woman who was arrested for letting her son play 120 feet from her home. The mother who was arrested after letting her 7-year-old walk to the park alone.
I could see the headline: "Mother arrested for letting children sit in the way back for 1.5 minutes."
"Listen," I told the boys. "Please don't tell anyone about this. Don't tell your teachers. Don't tell your friends. Just tell Dad."
And they did. Jubilantly. Hand-gesturing-ly.
And now I'm telling you. Because we've lost something so precious. We are so worried and they are so worried and if I can steal just a little bit of it back—it was around the corner—I am going to.
Piece by piece.
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