He snags the front seat, hopping into it before his older brother has time to vacate it, causing a brief but embarrassing scuffle in the drop-off lane of the high school. Thirteen years-old and humiliated by our genetic connection to one another, he wants me to go along with the ruse that we live in the same house, eat from the same refrigerator and share the same DNA but are in no way related. Still, he doesn't mind grabbing front seat status, even though it means he has to sit next to me. Cognitive dissonance is lost on a child his age.
That, however, is not all that is lost on a child his age; at least not this child, my child, the fruit of my womb (despite his protestations). And I'm not talking about girls, although he has a lot of questions about those as well, generating conversations that end in him turning red, covering his ears and saying, "Okay, okay, okay, I got it, I got it."
On this morning, sitting next to me in the front seat, straining so hard in prayer that I will neither say anything to him about girls nor park the car and walk into school with him nor shout, "Bye honey. I love you. Have a great day and I'll see you this afternoon," as he's exiting the car, he busts out with, "That car in front of us is from Edda-cay-tor County." He mumbles under his breath, again, "eddacaytor." He looks at me and asks, "I wonder what they're doing here?"
"Are you talking about the tag on the car in front of us?" I clarify.
"Yes, ma'am," he says, "the one with the apple on it."
"Are you serious?" I shoot back, raising my eyebrows.
Feeling rebuked for no apparent reason, he defensively answers, "Yes, ma'am, why wouldn't I be?"
The kid is serious. "That word says educator," I enunciate slowly.
"I know," he argues, "right there in the place where they put the name of the county. Why are those people here?" The car turns into the middle school parking lot right in front of us, but the expression of confusion never leaves his face.
This same child once asked me, "Why do hospital signs always have errrr on them?"
Baffled, I responded, "Errrr? What are you talking about?"
"Like on that sign, there," he pointed, reaching his arm from the backseat through the front seats. "It says errrr underneath the name of the hospital."
I looked up through the windshield, trying to keep one eye on the road while I studied the lettering on the large billboard. "Do you mean the capital letters E-R?"
"Yes, ma'am," he answered using his best manners and making the phonetic pronunciation again. "Errr."
Stunned, but patient, I explained, "E-R, honey. Emergency Room."
He's having a similar episode right here in the middle school carpool line, absolutely posing a legitimate question and not just trying to rope me in to some silly middle-schooler nonsense. He isn't reaching around to tap me on the shoulder and ducking so I can't see him. He means what he's saying. So I suggest to him, "The person in that car is probably a teacher."
"How do you know?"
I say it again to him, even slower this time, "Educator."
"Oooh," he whispers, pauses, then whispers again, a light flickering on, "oooooooh."
He's the blond in every crowd, but I think that's lost on him, too. I also think it might be me, not him, who needs to worry about sharing the same DNA.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson, GA. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)