Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mom-to-English Translator

I always feel particularly maternal when I share a memory with one of my kids. I can remember having this exact conversation with my mom at this exact same place on the highway when I was Agent 98's age. Driving home from New York last week, 98 saw the sign on the Mass Pike -  Trucks: Test Brakes. He asked me why trucks needed to test their brakes. With a hopefully inaudible roll of the eyes I explained that trucks need to test their brakes so the driver doesn't lose control when braking on an upcoming steep stretch of road.

Mom, what's that runaway truck turnout for? See, when a truck loses its brakes, and the driver knows because he tested his brakes, he can divert off the highway, and stop safely, and no one gets hurt. Clever civil engineering, huh?

Mom, why do the signs always say toll booth ahead? Mom, what's a fortnight? Hey, Mom, I figured out that if you put Momo's collar on her backwards, she won't bite you when you're putting it on her have you ever tried that because Momo gets pretty excited when I'm trying to put her collar on and she scratches a lot but she likes to be scratched behind her ears have you ever scratched her behind her ear Mom cause she really likes it. The next time you have a tube don't throw it out because I need it to make a mortar with some tape and that leg from a broken chair, just like they did on Mythbusters. Okay, mom?

I don't recall being a chatterbox as a kid, but I reckon I must have been. My mother explained mortality to me, at about this age: God grants you a certain number of words, Linda, and once you use up your words, you die. I think that's Mom for "Oh, for the love of God and all that's holy, please, I'm begging you, please, shut up already, for Pete's sake!"

The trick is that we don't know how many words God has granted us: did he give us a lot or only a few? No matter; either way we certainly shouldn't squander them. Especially when Mom's driving.

Ninety-eight, why don't you take a nap for a little while?  

Ninety-eight, maybe you should pull out one of your books and read for a bit.   

David, can you let 98 listen to your iPod for a while, please? Please? Pretty please? I'll give you cash.

By the end of that car ride with the kids I was humbly apologizing to my mother for every "Mom, it's raining. Should I close the windows?" I ever sent her way. At least she didn't let me hear her eyes roll.   

And I was silently praying that 98 got into the word line twice.

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