car talk

In the past six months the twins have had a “verbal explosion” They’ve been talking for quite some time, but now they are really into carrying on conversations with me as well as with each other. They are also very curious about the world around them and are constantly making observations and asking questions. Funny thing is, though, most of the time when I answer the question they ask the same one again, over and over and over. I’m not sure why…but I do know that it’s better than what’s around the corner…which is when they start asking me “why” over and over and over.

Tonight we were driving home from Ellie’s swim meet in Downers Grove. It’s about a 20 minute trip and it was late, so I half expected one or both to doze off in the car. Owen even asked if he could close his eyes in the car and I told him “sure”. Yeah, cat nap for five minutes in the car so you are wide awake, refreshed and running around the house at 9pm. Good plan.

As we pulled out onto the main road, Owen remarked that the other cars had red lights in the back. “Yes,” I said. “They are called tail lights”

“Oh.” Owen said. “Tail lights?”

“Yes, Owen, tail lights” piped in Avery.

“Yes, tail lights. They are the red lights on the back of every car. All cars have them.”

Both were immediately interested. Cars are a passion for the twins. Presently they were each clutching one of the many small cars that filled three huge bins in our toy area.

“What song is this, Mama?” Owen asked. Owen has been almost as interested in music these days as cars.

“Fallen,” I said.

“What song is this, Mama?” he asked again.

“Fallen,” I said again.

“What song is this, Mama?”

“FALL-IN” i said, louder and more articulately. “Fallen. Sarah McLachlan. Fallen”

“What song is this, Mama?”

I turned up the radio louder.

A few minutes later Owen asked again, “Mama, where is the tail lights?”

“On the back of the car.” I said…. again. “All cars have them. They are red. Look, see the red lights? And when the car starts to stop, the lights get brighter.”

“Oh,” Avery said and then began one her her a very long rambles. “These are the lights that are red and the red lights are on the back and the cars has the lights that are red and they are in the back and the in back in the car and the car has the red lights the ones that are red. In the back. Of the car. The red ones.”

“Exactly,” I said.

Owen continued over Avery’s ramble, “Mama, what are the head lights?”

Earlier Owen and Avery had had a very long discussion about the headlights on their toy cars while we were on our way to the swim meet. But, each time they said headlights it sounded like ‘head lice’

Owen had started “I have head lice, Avery? Do you have head lice?”

“Yes, Owen” she had replied back sounding very adult. “I have head lice too.”

“So, you have head lice, and I have head lice?”

“Yes, Owen, I have head lice, and you have head lice”

I couldn’t help it, their conversation had made me start to scratch my head.

Now, in the dark, the head lice were very easy to see, and the discussion turned to the cars’ front lights.

“Each car has lights in the front that are white,” I told them. “They are called head lice. I mean, headlights. And in the back are the red lights. They are called tail lights”

“Oh,” Owen said. “And where is the engine?”

“It’s in the front of the car. Under the hood.” I replied.

“Oh,” he said again. “And what is under the front seat?” He asked

“Um, the wheel?” I said, wondering “What is under the drivers seat?”

“And what are the windows called?” he asked.

“Windows” I shot back with confidence.

“Yes, Owen,” Avery chimed in, “these are the windows and they are the windows that are in the car. You see, Owen? There are windows and they are a window, and they are more windows. But we don’t have them down, Owen. It’s too hot. So we don’t have them down and Daddy doesn’t have his top down today.” Mike drives an Audi convertible and the twins are in love with his “circle car that has the top down”.

I tried to change the conversation, “Hey, guys, why don’t we listen to some tunes?” But Owen wasn’t having any of it. He was too immersed in our car talk, and was back on the engine. “The oil is in the engine,” he said proudly (we had just taken the car in for an oil change yesterday) “What else is in the engine, Mama?”

“Ummm…engine stuff.”

“Oh, and what else is by the engine?”

“Uh, the battery.” I replied.

“And what else?” he asked.

“The stuff by the battery”

“And what else?” he prodded.

“The flux capacitor” I was clearly running out of car terms.

“Oh,” he said. “And what is under the drivers seat?”

Hey, Alex, can we with the category? Something that I have a least a little knowledge? How about Oscar winning films for $200?

It occurred to me that I could make up any answer, tell them whatever story I wanted because they were only three and right now, right here at this very moment I am the authority on anything and everything. The smartest person alive. But, soon, very soon, they will quickly learn that I don’t know a lot about a lot of things. Soon, they’ll know that I have no idea what’s under the hood of my car and to be quite honest, I’m not even 100% sure I know how to pop the hood of this car. Fortunately, I have a manual. And You Tube. And a husband. Yeah, that sounds sexist, but hell, it’s the truth.

But right here, tonight as we drive home, I am the authority on everything. They trust that I know exactly the right answer and maybe that’s not such a good thing. I’m human. I don’t have all the answers. And I don’t know that much about cars.

“Mama,” Owen continued, “what is under the trunk?”

“Owen,” I said, “I’m not sure. Let’s go to the library tomorrow and get a car book.”

“Ok,” he said, and was quiet for a bit.

“Mama?” Owen said softly.

“Yes, sweetie?”

“What song is this?”