The sun was setting, the air was swirling, and E fastened her helmet and climbed up on her bike. I had chosen to walk alongside, and tucked my fingers more tightly into my pockets. We decided to go in the direction of the face tree. She pedaled and I walked until I jogged, and then she stopped suddenly and I didn't trip on a tree root. Ohh, she said, I really like their driveway. It's so smooth and pretty.1 And while I pondered that, she pedaled on.
She accelerated just enough to stop suddenly again, and craned upward. Look at all of those birds! What kind are they? "I think they're crows." But they're black. "Crows are black." They were swooping and diving and we were in a clearing between two tall oaks and she loved the majesty of their dance and I tried not to flinch, remember the night a decade or so ago when I had been walking up to the Dome for a Syracuse basketball game and one of those flying creature's cousins had pooped on my head.2 She knocked me out of my past with her wonder: look how they're soaring.3
We passed a house whose cars clustered in the driveway. The last in line extended into the sidewalk lane and we had to veer around it. E asked, why do they have three cars? I answered, "maybe they have three drivers. Maybe they have a teenager who has to drive himself to college or maybe the grandma lives with them."
First she called me out on my gender default and then she offered her own supposition. Why do you think it's a boy who goes to college? Maybe it's a girl! But I think it's because they have a mom and a dad and a step-mom. I think it's the step-mom's car.4
We briefly discussed what kinds of cars step-moms drive and then finally, she came to her senses, realized how cold we both were, and suggested we turn towards home.
So back we went.
1The driveway had just been freshly refinished, and presented an unblemished blacktop surface.
2Luckily, Syracuse in the winter is not tropical and I had pulled my hood up.
3Since when does she know poetic words like 'soaring?'
4Here's another side-effect of sheltering them from the Disney regime: their first introduction to the evil-step-mom trope was very recent, via a farcical version of Cinderella they saw at a friend's house. Now they think step-moms are all wonderful, and freely dispense gifts and candy. They ask regularly when they can have a step-mom and I tell them they can't unless I die, or their daddy and I get divorced, and they don't believe me. They think we'll coexist as a threesome. Can you imagine how disorienting the experience of seeing the real Cinderella movie will one day be?