I am about to make my umpteenth trip to the grocery and am not happy about it. Having gathered my shopping essentials—wallet, car keys, cell phone, a list in illegible handwriting, reading glasses and a small chip on my shoulder, I hear a soft voice ask, “Grandma, can I go with you?”
Of course, she can’t go with me. She will slow me down. She will impede efficiency. Besides, if she goes, her brothers and sisters may want to go. This is not a field trip; it is a quick grocery run.
“Well, can I?” she asks.
“Sure,” I hear myself say. “Get your shoes.”
I help buckle her into the back seat, slip into the driver’s seat, start the car and hear a soft hum.
“I put my window down,” she cheerfully announces. “Grandma, don’t you want to put your window down?”
Hadn’t thought about it. The sun is shining and the humidity is low. It may be a near perfect day. I put my window down. “I don’t usually drive with the windows down,” I say.
“Oh!” she gushes with excitement. “We drive with the windows down! But not on the highway. We have to put all the windows up on the highway. Are we going on the highway?”
“No, not on the highway, but we will be on a very busy street, so I’d like you to put your window up in a few blocks.”
“Grandma, do you know why I like the window down?”
“To feel the breeze, Grandma.”
We slow to a stop behind a long line of cars waiting for red to turn green.
“Oh, look, Grandma! Look at that lady’s steering wheel! It’s very pretty!”
The car next to us has a steering wheel cover made of solid bling that sparkles in the sun.
“Do you think she made it herself?” she gasps. The child is beholding one of the seven wonders of the world. “Maybe she bought all those sparkles at a garage sale and glued them on, one at a time.”
“Do you know why I like the window down, Grandma?”
“To feel the breeze?”
“Yes, but I also like to look for excavators. I saw 11.”
“When did you see 11 excavators?”
“Not all at one time, but I keep track of them and I’ve seen 11. You know what’s funny, Grandma?”
“I thought you were turning into the store back there, but you were only getting on the other side of the road!”
It was not an abrupt lane change; the girl simply notices everything. I have a rare treasure in the back seat, one of the only human beings left on earth who absorbs the present and lives in the now. We arrive at the store, quickly gather what we came for and head home. Windows up.
“Grandma! Look at that car—that’s a cool car! That man has ALL his windows down!”
He is fortunate, the man in the sleek convertible with all the windows and the top down. But at this moment, on this day and in this traffic, I may be the most fortunate of all.
We turn into the neighborhood, put all the windows down and take the long way home.