There are few greater – and simpler – pleasures than walking my daughter to school in the morning. (Oh sure, some days we’re riding bikes instead of walking. Like today.) What matters is that it’s her, me, and a few uninterrupted moments in the sunshine.
Like a lot of conversation with children, our talks during these walks and bike rides is fluid and sometimes aimless. We meander from nature to the birds and bees, stopping in between for discussion about how to get her friends to play better at recess and how to get her father to clean the garage.
“When will the honeysuckle come back so we can call this Honeysuckle Roadway again?”
“Daniella and Balikha won’t play together, and I want all of us to play together. What should I do?”
“This bike is perfect for me. How does Santa know me so well?”
“It must hurt when they cut babies out of their moms’ bellies.”
A couple weeks ago, a bright warm day bloomed like magic from a string of gray and chilly ones. We walked to school that morning, her dressed as Madame Curie for a class assignment on biographies. On that particular walk, the butterflies were in her stomach as we spent the time practicing her speech again and again. By the time we were at school, she was calm and even theatrical, embellishing the speech she had printed out with sparkly details.
“Pierre Curie was killed when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage in Paris. How could he not have seen that coming? Too busy thinking about radium, I guess.”
Perhaps it is easiest to discuss weighty issues when you feel weightless. I remember the car as my salon of choice, sitting in the passenger seat on the way to the mall or the ballpark, having the same sorts of moments with my own mother. In my teenage years, we talked about boys (and what to do and not do with them) in the context of what my friends were experiencing. When I was Lily’s age, I remember sobbing beside her as I confided that boys in my class had been calling me names.
“That’s what boys do to girls they like. One day you’ll get them back.”
I’ve said exactly the same thing to Lily. Lily, who can speak of radioactive elements on her way to school and still believes in Santa Claus even though the time to talk about puberty is quickly approaching. I believe we will have both conversations during a short walk in the morning, just us.