memories

The Empty Corner

 

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We raced our bikes for hours. Two bad-ass little 9 year old girls still all long limbs and confidence. Nothing beat out of us yet, we were free from body hate and helicopter parenting wasn’t invented yet so our parents pushed out the door to exercise those long limbs in the sun as we screamed with laughter and our muscles felt joy at working and nothing else.

She lived on a double cul de sac. Two circles at either end, slightly elevated and the middle connecting section slightly lower. It was essentially the world’s best place to live if you liked to race figure eights for hours. We did. Race all morning, come in for lunch, race all afternoon. A little boy our age and grade also lived there and though his name was Brian we called him Booger. I’ve no recollection as to why, but I’m certain we owe him an apology.  We had spent the early morning torturing Booger and not letting him play with us, so it was after lunch that as we raced our bikes in faster and faster figure eights we noticed a large rubber spider on the road, in our path.

Booger. We thought. It would be just like a boy to put a big rubber nasty spider in our way thinking it would scare us. Boys are so lame. But we were scared. Pick it up, my friend said, we will ring the doorbell and toss it at him. You pick it up, I shot back. I was never a big fan of things with many legs, especially ones the size of an avocado. This went on for a while as we stood there in the sun, staring down at the spider, straddling our bikes, contemplating.

It’s belly looks like it’s moving! She said. Must be melting, I responded. Then, for some reason I reached a toe, newly clad in grey Nike tennies with a pink swoosh, out toward the spider and gently touched it. It was instantaneous, it appeared as if the abdomen peeled and baby spiders were everywhere. It was a swarm. I mean within a split second they covered the street and were on our bikes and legs.

This was no rubber spider. Booger had been notoriously wronged. He was not the culprit. We dropped our bikes and ran screaming back to her house at the other end of the crazy 8 racetrack where her father, hearing our screams met us at the door, took one look at us teeming with baby spiders and immediately turned the hose on us. In the sunlight it appeared as if the road undulated with a million spiders moving and crawling over the entire section. Our bikes were covered. I’m certain this is an exaggeration of memory, but I am also certain If I were polygraphed on this, it would read true.  Her father bravely rescued the bikes as her mother wrapped us in towels and ushered us into a nice warm shower and gave us clean clothes and then made popcorn. Our bikes met the same fate with the garden hose as we did and were none the worse for wear.

There is a Daddy Long Legs that took up residence in a high corner of my bathroom almost a year ago. She is small and barely moves, though I assume she is getting enough to eat. (I’ve assigned her sex as female as she is in my bathroom!)  For some reason, I feel fondly towards this little spider, despite my abject fear. I check on her in the morning. There she is and oddly it makes me smile. She is alone, I guess spiders don’t have friends over much, and sometimes, despite myself- knowing it is insane- I say good morning little spider! I hope you had a good night and ate some yummy bugs! I’ve no explanation for feeling a connection to a Daddy Long Legs just kicking it in a ceiling corner, but she makes me happy. I know, crazy.  She is part of my daily routine, and her presence is calming and happy.

She’s gone. She’s simply vanished, probably having reached the end of her natural life span though I’ve found no evidence of her demise. One day she just wasn’t there. Every morning I look for her and nothing. That corner seems so empty. My heart misses her. It’s silly and strange, but the world is so crazy right now I looked forward to that consistency I guess. That tiny little creature, just hanging out. Living. And if she could hear and understand she would probably say “Hey, crazy lady. You know you’re saying good morning to a spider, right?”

I miss a spider.

Life is weird.

Oh the places you will go…

Growing up in Boulder, Colorado, I never fit in. Everyone thought I was a weirdo (or so I thought, and let’s be honest I thought I was a weirdo too.). Boulder was a confusing place filled with wealthy hippies, a lot of actual rocket scientists and as my mother used to say “even the checker at Whole Foods has a PhD.”  It was a contradictory place, for me. Until I moved away, I truly believed that Birkenstock’s were the official shoes of all clergy.  (except the LDS, but that’s another post for another day, am I right?)

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I was too pale, too loud, I wore sunglasses that were too big. Then I moved to California and absolutely everything that made me unattractive in Boulder made me attractive there. It was mind-boggling. I was the same person but people’s reaction to me was vastly different.

It wasn’t until I got to Los Angeles that I truly felt HOME. I understood feeling like you belong to a place. A geographical location. And I met my people. That’s not to say that in Colorado or Northern California I hadn’t found people to which I belonged. I’ve been very blessed to make great and long term friends that become family along the way. My husband says it is one of my superpowers.

I’d say that’s a great super power, but I’m still asking Santa for the ability to move things with my mind. Every year he disappoints.

Within ten weeks of giving birth to my oldest, we packed up the entire contents of our Los Angeles life in an ironically named moving van blazed with Broadway across it, waved good bye to my sister, nephew and best friend and drove away. Almost seven years later and I still can’t believe it. The rawness of the wound hasn’t healed, but something has happened.

I found a second home. For a long time we have felt like been treading water, licking our wounds from the financial crisis, unable to move forward. But in the last six months I’ve been feeling almost as if I am in a chrysalis. Almost ready to burst forth. Hyperbole aside, it’s a strange feeling, not uncomfortable…but almost as if I am perched on the edge of the high dive, at the ready, a little scared, a little excited, waiting for the final impetus to make the leap.

We’ve got all the babies we are going to have. Our family is complete and happy. We have general paths we wish to follow, we are ready.

This weekend I photographed a sweet newborn and traveled back and forth to DC to celebrate NCGE’s 100th anniversary where I photographed the Gala, awards and receptions. I’m not sure if you’ll find a nicer group of people than geographers and geography educators.  Did you know we have an official geographer of the United States? We do. I met him.

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If you had told me when I was my son’s age and already feeling out of place, that someday life would take me to Los Angeles, that I would do commercials and movies and that at one point Morgan Freeman would lay down one of my biggest life lessons for me while we made dinner. That I would visit the Ancient City, the Vatican, St. Peter’s. That one day I would be a mother, that one day I would be a photographer,  that one day I would spend every weekend at the pool and LOVE IT, that one day I would make friends here, that one day I would look around DC and appreciate it’s beauty and feel at home;  I would have declared you insane.

But here we are. Oh, the places I’ve been. And the places I hope to go.

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One

Each year on their birthdays I write my children a letter. This is Piper’s first letter.

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My darling girl,

I am in denial that you, my last baby, have had your last night as a baby and are bravely tackling the new moniker of toddler.  I am certain that this denial will follow your growth, but I promise not to let it get in the way of your growth. This past year has flown by. I feel as though I have blinked and you are one.

When your father and I were deciding if we wanted another baby, a woman told me “You might regret it if you don’t, but you will never regret it if you do.” She was so right. You are an absolute treasure to our entire family. You make us softer, kinder, and stronger.  When we go out it never fails that someone smiles at you and says softly, sometimes to us and sometimes under their breath “how precious”. Everyone we meet recognizes indeed how precious you are. Priceless.

Your brothers dote on you. Max loves you unconditionally and takes the job of protector and builder of self-esteem very seriously. You never go long without a kiss, a hug, and you never want for a toy, the very moment you reach for one your big brother is off to get it for you. Your eyes positively light up when you look at each other.  Huck also only has eyes for you.  Baby Big Brother is making you tough, he loves you so much, he sometimes hugs too hard and wants to hold you too tight. He teaches you to stand up for yourself, and heaven help whoever crosses you…he or she will have the three of you to deal with!

I was so worried about having a girl, I myself had a hard time and I struggled in my relationship with my mother. I will try hard not to repeat the same mistakes, but I am certain to make some. My love for you is all encompassing and every new accomplishment of yours is met with great celebration from us all.

You are the sweetest little girl, you are kind and gentle and you are such a delight that I don’t even care that you still wake up every two hours at night. Daddy doesn’t even care that sometimes I have to tag him in because at least once a week Pippy Dulli, Party Girl likes to party from 2-5 a.m.

You prefer savory to sweet, choosing chicken and vegetables over fruits. You love spaghetti and sauce. You hate sticky fingers.

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You were the first of my children who didn’t care for cake.

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But you love tiaras. Your first stop is always to steal anything pink, sparkly, or girly. You, so far, are all girly girl. When we showed you your presents you squeaked and squealed because they were pink and you knew they were for you. Recently we took you shopping and your father got the biggest kick out of what you and I already knew; you are a girl who knows what she wants. He would hold up a dress or shirt and you would either smile and reach for it cooing excitedly or give him a face that clearly said you can’t be serious, no way am I wearing that. 

That is how you came home with more clothes than anyone, none of us can resist you!

You are not easy to anger but woe upon the poor soul (usually Huck) who takes one of your toys from you. When you are really mad you put your fist in your mouth and shake your head back and forth making a loud noise. Everyone in the family knows this means Baby Sister is pissed.

You know what you like and you let us know. You are strong, determined, sweet, silly, kind, and the absolute light of this family. With each of your siblings we felt like we couldn’t fathom how we lived without them. That is still true. When you were born it was like we looked around, the five of us and felt well! we are all here now.

Happy First Birthday my sweet girl. You brought healing to old wounds, and though I was afraid to have a daughter I can honestly say all those fears are gone. I am surrounded by good mothers of daughters to look too, including both your grandmothers, and you have strong men who will love and care for you all your life. I missed out on that and I felt that loss tremendously, you won’t.

I love you with all of my being. Just the thought of you make me smile.

That woman was right, I never regretted it. You are a gift to us all. We love you.

Love, Mommy

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Enjoy Huckleberry

We all have our hobbies and my husband’s hobby is silk screening t-shirts. He is very good at it and he recently made me a shirt in the fashion of the coca cola logo that said “enjoy Huckleberry”. Sometimes life lessons smack you in the head from the strangest places, in this case, a t-shirt. I do enjoy my Huckleberry, though sometimes I get mired down in the exhausting spiritedness of mothering such a sparkler. This is MY failing of course, I try to control and get frustrated at times when I should really just take a deep breath and enjoy Huckleberry. Honestly, what’s not to enjoy?

for web (1 of 1)-7This is a kid who finds joy in almost everything. He is unabashedly himself. Other kids flock to him and without a blink he is off and running to play, laugh and enjoy being Huckleberry. He is always in. We running around screaming? I’m in! Playing Legos? I’m in!

On Sunday we took over the Splash Park to celebrate our Huckleberry and almost 40 people joined us for pizza, cupcakes, and fun. I marvel at the ease with which this newly four year old moves between social groups, from school to t-ball to family he seamlessly flits between them and brings everyone together. He is always up for a good time,  and we sure did have one!

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It was so precious.

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Though the wind threatened to blow out his candles for him, he kept smiling. He was so sweetly happy that all those people were singing for him.IMG_6553

 

Hint: if you have to shop for a present for a four year old boy, may I indeed suggest Velociraptor hands. They were/are a huge hit.  Thanks CG.IMG_6795

 

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Despite my thinking it was a picture perfect day, Huck informed me that he was mad. You see, he invited Big Bird and Elmo and they didn’t attend, what jerks.

Rip my heart out kid. Good thing my mom got him tickets to Sesame Place for his birthday. Then he passed out in my arms, snuggled down with his Grer Bear and took one more step towards 5.

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Enjoy, my little Huckleberry. You teach me every day. I love you.

Like Sands Through The Hourglass…

There are some memories from childhood that are so clear and precise they seem like movies to me.  My childhood is so ingrained with Dub’s that sometimes I am unclear whether it is a memory of something that happened to me or something that is her event but I was there, it’s like a woven blanket of our childhood, the yarns unravelable and multi-colored.

Such it is with the loss of the two front teeth. I can see our classroom clearly, I know where we were sitting at our desks together. I can see the front of the room with the little sink and mirror in the right corner of the room nearest the windows of the basement in the church where our school was held. The windows looking out, if you can say basement windows look out, on a green area with a creek and a tree. That tree was our imagination land for years. It was our home, our tower, our castle, our roller coaster…it was everything.

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I can see Heather and I getting up from our desk in the middle of the room and going to the sink to check our loose front teeth twenty times a day. Twisting them around, feeling the metallic taste of tiny drops of blood as we wiggled them back and forth, that one last string holding on as those teeth stubbornly dangled like shutters in a storm. Leaning close to that safety mirror, wrinkling our noses, squinting as we worked squeamishly on those teeth.

Then one of us, maybe both of us, lost one. Right there in the classroom over the sink. So exciting, so weird. I remember us looking at each other so excited talking about how the Tooth Fairy brings more for front teeth.

On my death bed I will be able to recall this. And I wonder, will Max always remember sitting on our stairs as we all screamed with joy and freaking out as he twisted his tooth around. When I touched it and told him Oh that will come right out if you pull it and how without even a tug suddenly his big front tooth seemed so tiny in the palm of his hand.

Front tooth lost, one more giant childhood milestone passed.

 

Somehow we keep growing, keep moving forward, even if sometimes we wish we could rewind and re-live.

Thank God for memories.

{ETA We will all remember how the next day at Huck’s fourth birthday party the lone front tooth turned sideways, flipping this way and that causing squeals and eeks from every one until it popped out right as we got in the car to go home.}

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This is what I get when I say, give me a cute smile so we can see your teeth….boys.

Little Windows

 

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He does his best sharing with me right before he sleeps. At almost seven, his days are spent being big, strong…brave. Everything between even the best of friends is a competition. Who is the tallest, fastest, the best counter to one hundred. Every second of his day is graded by increments of achievement, even though we the parents encourage the growth rather than the goal. It takes a while to shed this skin of bigness, it takes coming home, relaxing, bathing, and finally being tucked into bed and suddenly, again, he is little. Well, not really little but smaller. Released from competition he snuggles up next to me, places his forehead right against mine.

 

It is this time of day that is my favorite with him, it is this time of day he spills out all the stories he has to tell.

 

This evening his eyes grow cloudy in the dim light of the baseball night light illuminating our cocoon. I remember when he was born thinking I had never seen eyes that color, eyes that are truly cerulean blue. Once walking through an art gallery with him when he was tiny a woman stopped me to tell me what beautiful eyes she had. When I told her he was a boy, she said shaking her head what a shame. I thought that was a silly thing to say, as if beautiful eyes were wasted on a boy.

 

He furrows his brow, the smattering new spring freckles spattered across his nose barely visible and whispers, “I have something to tell you.” He is very serious and I prepare myself. There have been troubles at school with a boy in his class. Last week he tackled my son to the ground twice telling him he wanted him to stop breathing, and later that he wanted him to die. We’ve been talking about ways he can stand up for himself without making the situation worse and my heart aches that kindergartners can cross the line from play to cruelty so easily.

 

He takes a deep breath, ready to talk after a long  pause. “I don’t know how to tell you this. I don’t want to hurt your and grandma’s feelings.” I reassure him that he can tell me anything and remind him that if he feels he can’t tell me or someone says he shouldn’t tell me, those are the most important things to share. Then I reassure him that grandma and I are grown ups. That it is very sweet that he wants to protect our feelings but that is not his job. Our job is to protect him, not the other way around. While I am saying these words, whispering in the half dark, my mind is racing. What on EARTH could he be about to say. Finally, he is convinced I won’t be mad and I promise I will tell grandma for him. That’s my job, I say and kiss his still sun warmed forehead.

 

“I am just over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You and grandma always buy me turtle stuff and I am over them, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I know you buy it for me cause you love me and think I love them, but I don’t anymore.”

 

It’s hard not to laugh one of those oh that is the sweetest thing laughs, but I don’t because he will think I am laughing at him, another newly introduced concept thanks to this boy at school. “Oh honey!” I say “I am so glad you told me that. You’re right we do get it for you because you liked it. But it’s good you’re growing up and moving on to new interests! Never be afraid to tell us who you are right now! Grandma and I love YOU no matter what you like! ”

Such a small thing to me, such a large worry for him. We spent the rest of bedtime chatting about his new interests and what he likes now. I am not sure how to make sure we always have these little windows of time where we can talk like this, I know as he grows older and more independent the opportunities will shrink, at least for a while. But for now I am grateful to lay forehead to forehead and stare into those beautiful blue eyes as he quizzes me on all the names of the Skylanders.


I’m doing pretty good so far.

My Happiness Project

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I finally finished slogging through We, The Drowned. Dang it was good…but for some reason it took me ages to finish reading it. At one point I actually had to look up how many pages it was (I was reading on Oyster) and it was only 700. I would have guessed it was twice that, easy! Whew. So If you’re looking for an opus to read, check it out. It’s wonderful but takes a  while!

So anyway, I finished it and decided that I needed a book that was light, what I call a ‘palate cleanser’ book.  I saw Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and clicked on it. I read the first chapter and just felt…inspired? Encouraged? I am not sure but I immediately texted my husband and sister and was like you guys need to be reading this with me. 

I love how she weaves research into her stories as lightly as she is saying “may I have an aperitif?” And I was stunned at how quickly applicable it was.

Mornings here can be rough. Huckie is a hangry little thing in the a.m. he needs to be hugged right now and also milk right now and don’t leave me right now but get me cereal right now. Add a baby who needs to be held and a kindergartener that needs to get to school and it can be a recipe for frustration and yelling. I hate that. I hate starting the day like that.

Max was crawling on the kitchen counter, then to a chair at the table, then to another chair then to railing… I let out an exasperated heavy sigh and he immediately looked at me, eyes wide, ready to get in trouble.
I told him to stop.  But that look stayed with me.

A few minutes more he repeated the pattern. I caught him looking at me, knowing what was to come once he was standing on the kitchen table chair.  A lesson from the book popped into my head and instead of yelling I said “Trying to get to the playroom without touching the ground?” “yes” he said.

“when I was little, about your age, the carpet in my house was RED. Can you imagine?”  he couldn’t because who picks red carpet??  “Auntie Dub and I used to pretend that the carpet was hot lava and try to get all over the house without touching the ground. We actually used to lay out clothes and toys we could step on to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. ”

His eyes lit up with delight at the image of his mom and aunt his age and doing the same thing…only more elaborately.

“It used to drive my mom CRAZY! She just didn’t understand that the carpet was lava and we couldn’t step on it!”

We both started laughing and it just changed the whole tone of the morning. Instead of being angry he was doing something that- let’s be honest- isn’t really that big of a deal, we found a common ground and we both ended up happier.

Instead of heading off to school grumpy, we ended up closer. And no kitchen chairs were injured in the making of the moment.

I don’t know about you but I would rather laugh than yell. So I am calling day one of my happiness project a massive success.

A whirlwind.

Starting with Easter, spring break was a whirlwind. Much like Christmas break it went far too fast for me. Plus part of it was really rainy and bleh so I want a do over!

Like last year we spent the holiday with our Friend/Family the R’s and again it couldn’t have been better. A real dream come true for this small family gal to have landed smack in the middle of a big family where friends are readily welcomed and adopted right in! I don’t think I spent more that three minutes with Piper the entire time, she was stolen by Aunties Kristen, Bridget, Shannon and more! She had a glorious time, as did all the kids. I mean who doesn’t love a party where each kid gets 70 eggs!

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One of our bests was out of town and we really missed her though, we all kept wanting to tell her things and she wasn’t there. She is hereby forbidden to travel on holidays for ever and ever. We made her sign a billion year contract just like the Scientologists. (did you watch going clear? Let’s discuss…)

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On Friday my father in law retired from National Geographic in what can  only be described as an emotional happy breakfast celebration. Everyone turned out to laud him and extoll his awesomeness, including us. Although Huck just really wanted a donut and Piper tried to steal everyone’s jewelry and chewed on the founder’s table, but it was really lovely and a touch sad. He’s done so much for geography and making sure our children are educated and entertained, I truly think it’s a great loss for us all. But fun for him cause now he gets to, in the words of Max “Help  mommy deal with us.”

Right…

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Friday was also the first time I was featured on the Washington Post! Very exciting for this gal, right here! My essay Sometimes They Just Want Their Mommy was featured and a wonderful write up about Listen To Your Mother DC! (did you get your tickets yet? cause you should!)

Then driving home I received a message from ABC news wanting to interview me about my C-section piece, so I went ahead and did that in a minivan full of kids, cause I’m a professional! And that led to the most hilarious screencap I’ve ever seen over my own photo.

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Who knew? None of the ultrasounds warned us he was a Baby Gorilla! Sidenote: now I want a Baby Gorilla. (read it here.) 

THEN I got asked to be interviewed for another something that I don’t want to say till it happens cause I’m sleep deprived and superstitious! But it’s newsy, and that made three news sites in 12 hours that wanted little old me. And just the day before I had complained I was always the bridesmaid never the bride!

Saturday was the first read through for LTYM and I am so jazzed about this show this year! I know I never really write about it, the whole process is hard for me to describe. It melds my old life with my new and in one show a year I feel renewed. It’s so amazing and I’m lucky to be involved. For realz.

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I thought a minivan was the nail in the coffin of cool. I was wrong.

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When I first got my minivan I was conflicted. I mean who drives these things? Certainly not ME, who despite two kids and another one on the way (at the time) still felt twenty-five. Still felt that 10 p.m. was an acceptable time to begin getting ready to go out for the evening. In my head anyway. Clearly delusional as in reality I don’t go out past 10 p.m. Unless it’s a special occasion like someone’s birthday and then dudes, the next day mama is tired!

I thought as I crawled into my minivan “This is it. The end of cool”. But at the same time I love that Goddamn thing so much. I named her Ethel (to my Lucy, naturally) and I don’t know how I ever lived without her. She makes life ever so much easier. She keeps children from flinging open doors into parked cars. She has room  for baseball gear and thrifted dressers and multiple strollers. She has a remarkably good sound system for blaring Boys To Men while carting my drunk friends around on one of the aforementioned out past ten p.m. birthday outings. She is the bread to my butter and I love her.

Even if that makes me uncool.

That was the pinnacle I felt. I have fallen as far the fallen can fall. But I was wrong. I was oh, so wrong.

It started earlier this week when I was at Stay at Home Mom Mecca (Starbucks) and Huckleberry laid eyes on a minivan much like ours except in one respect.

It had reindeer antlers and a nose.

To say Huck lost his sugar honey ice tea would be an understatement. “Is a reindeer car, mommy! Is RUDOLPH!”  It was awesome! I mean it’s awesome if you’re three. If you’re ME? Not so much!

“We need that for our car!” He gleefully cried.

Crap.

Next thing I knew I had hit two Party City stores and three Five Belows in an effort to acquire such accoutrements for my minivan.

So there’s cool. Then there’s minivan level not cool but still holding on by your fingernails cool. Then there’s a 100 foot drop to rock bottom of cool and it’s there that they hand you the antlers. And it’s worth it.

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See ya “cool”. Catch ya on the flip side.  For now, cool is putting antlers on vans happily being willing to be looked at askance by other drivers. The looks they give me doesn’t matter. The light in his -and as it turns out his too-cool-for-school- big brother’s eyes? That matters.

And in their eyes. It’s the coolest ride in town.