Pa-pa and I thought Sooby would love riding in the convertible with the top down. We thought she would delight in the rush of the wind through her hair as we sailed through a landscape of red and yellow leaves kissed by the gentle autumn sunlight. With the back seat all to herself, we reasoned, how could she not embrace the sheer sensory adventure of this Indian summer day?
However, less than a mile from home and at a speed not even fast enough to activate the sensory delight mechanism standard to all convertibles, a little voice barely makes itself audible above the harmonious duet created when a perfect engine purrs and four tires lick rhythmically at the pavement.
"Pa-pa?" she says. "Would you put the ceiling back on this room?"
"What?" Pa-pa asks, giving me a quizzical glance.
"She wants you to put the top back up," I say, doubly amazed. First, the word-lover in me marvels at the pure creativity of her language: the idea that the car's back seat is a "room" and the retractable top is its "ceiling." Second, I cannot believe that she isn't all over the experience of riding in the open air.
I remember when my Uncle Butch and Aunt Sue would load us kids in their 1960 Chevy convertible and haul us all the way to their home near Kansas City, nearly eighty miles away. For a bunch of small-town kids, this experience took us as close to heaven as I could imagine, partly because Uncle Butch drove pretty fast but mostly because there was no feeling to rival that of the cool night air pushing at my face in a steady, massaging motion that would leave me nearly breathless. It is easy to understand why dogs love to ride with their heads hanging out car windows facing against a wind that glues their eyes shut and makes their tongues drip. I think in a former life, I may have been a dog.
I ponder Sooby's very different response, but only for a moment. At only four years old, she is probably much younger than I was at those times when, with the carefree abandon of middle childhood, I careened with Uncle Butch down Highway 50 toward the city. At four, Sooby feels a little more secure if the ceiling stays on her room, and I can understand that. I chalk this up as yet another lesson learned at the sweet, pudgy hands of my first grandchild.
This hits home to me as a good reminder that I need to be careful. I need to not rush these things with the kids. The truth is, sometimes I get so anxious to recreate the wonderful, blissful experiences of my own childhood with them that I don't stop to think that they may not be quite ready. I did this with Pooh, when I took him to his first movie and the loudness of the theater speakers frightened him. I even did this with Pooh's mama, Cookie, when my Fourth of July firework display the year she was two resulted in more apprehension on her part than patriotism. She went running in the house to her daddy, and I felt pretty sheepish setting off the rest of the Roman candles by myself.
Back off, Googie. All in good time. They are little. For now, stick to birthday cakes and balloons, and, for gosh sakes, leave the ceilings on all the rooms.