One of the reasons I opted for a car without a DVD player or TV screens on the headrests is because I value our car conversations, the ones we wouldn’t have if my beans were being carted off to karate lessons after school, wearing headphones, engrossed in a movie on demand. Conversations like this one, which I recorded on a device I keep in my car for jotting down ideas. It was raining, and we were zipping off to karate class.
Abigail said, “You know when it rains it’s because Mother Nature is crying.”
I responded, “Oh, really? Well, maybe, Mother Nature tried to get her hair cut today, and she was circling and circling for twenty minutes in downtown Manhattan today looking for a parking spot or an open lot and she couldn’t, so she started to cry because she couldn’t get her hair cut after all that and missed her appointment.”
Abigail said, “Mama, not everything is about you and your life.” And I laughed, and said, “Oh, really?!”
“Yes,” Lucas chimed in. “Mother Nature is actually the moon, and the sun punched her in the face. That’s why she’s crying.”
“Oh, is that so?” I said.
“No,” Abigail said. “Mother Nature’s parents are the sun and the moon, and her parents broke up.”
“What?!” I said.
“Yes,” she said, “wait, no. Mother Nature is in high school, and she just broke up with her boyfriend, and that’s why she’s crying. But we all know she’ll get over it, which is why the sun will come out soon enough.”
“Right on, yo.” I said.
“Nah,” Lucas said, “we’re Mother Nature’s play set, and we’re her dolls, and she’s zooming us to karate against our will, and she knows we don’t want to go, and that’s why she’s crying. She feels our pain.”
They no longer take karate class. Mother Nature has stopped the torture.
I was looking down at my nails, sitting in traffic, on our way into the city to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had recently finished reading From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a novel about a brother and sister who run away and sleep in the museum. When I looked up from my nails and inched the car forward, I said, “Lucas, you’re gonna have to get a manicure while we’re here.”
“No way,” he said.
“Then you might have to keep us girls company for a quick one.”
“No, thank you,” he said.
“Just a little bit of company,” I said.
“You need to snap out of it, Mama!” Abigail piped in. “You’re here on business. You need to get your head in the game.” Holy smokes, I love this kid’s mouth.
Later, when I pointed out the Manhattan skyline, she said, “That’s the place where everyone wastes all their money.” And Lucas looked at the cemetery and said, “That’s the place where everyone puts all their sorrow.”