The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time.

~ William Butler Yeats

Growing up, I enjoyed riding shotgun. I could call dibs faster than Kelly Minisofer. Since this was back in the day before air conditioning came standard, we used 4/60 air – four windows down, going 60 mph. All the kids were jealous of the awesome tan on my right arm; I’d extend it straight out the window and do those cool aerodynamic swirls. And sometimes, since seat belts were also optional, I’d lean way out and let the wind, and occasional bug, rifle up my nose.

Remember that feeling? The onslaught of summer wind so strong it made breathing damn near impossible? The sting in your eyes, forcing you to squeeze them shut, instead just letting the sound of the road echo loudly in your head?

Zoe gets this. I can’t drive anywhere without her wanting to come with (as my Minnesota relatives so eloquently put it). This morning, it meant bringing her along to the little country store half a mile down the road. We could have walked, but where’s the fun in that?! Zero to thirty and we’re there. But not before she’d leaned out the window and lost her favorite hat to the warming Indiana breeze.

Not the first time she’s lost shit out the window. The first time came when she was probably four. We were on our way from Evansville via Terre Haute and were at that spot along US-41 that runs by Boot City, home of 10,000 soles. The air in my Honda has never worked really well, so we had the windows down, the music up, and smiles on our faces in anticipation of the corn dogs we planned to scarf down at Dog ‘n Suds. Then came The Scream. You parents who’ve had four-year-olds know The Scream. It’s heart-stopping. I quickly look over, thinking perhaps she’d been stung by a bee or something. Instead, I don’t see her favorite big cream-colored teddy bear anymore. Not in the floorboard. Not in the back seat.

Not in her arms.

And she’s pointing out the window. And tears are streaming down her face. And she’s screaming.

1.5 seconds have passed.

I glance into the rearview mirror and through the heat glare I see Teddy laying on the side of the road all Pee Wee Herman, half on, half off the blazing hot cement, yellow line bisecting his torso. And cars swerving like they were circumventing road kill.

Part of me, for just a brief moment, wants to keep driving. I’m suddenly all Tough Love. There’s a lesson to be learned here, I contemplate; “Don’t hold shit out the window you want to keep!” Yeah, she’d cry. A lot. But she’d learn a lesson.

Then, probably not. And what kind of a heartless son-of-a–

I slam on the breaks and pull over. And as she leans out the window, her crying abating, I walk down the shoulder and rescue Teddy. Now she’s all smiles. Innocent and beautiful. And I’m her hero.

We also stopped and got the hat back on our drive home, her head tilted out the window, the breeze blowing her hair. Again, she’s all smiles . . .

[photo credit]

22 thoughts on “Window

  1. Been there… That is funny….

  2. metaphor for life, “don’t hold shit out the window that you want to keep”

  3. I do remember that feeling but I always got in trouble for sticking my head out of the window. So I didn’t get to do it that often. I’m glad you went back for the teddy bear. You’re such a softy for your little girl. It’s so sweet.

  4. Sweet piece! Kids are our salvation so often, aren’t they?

  5. I would definitely have had to go back for the bear, and the hat. Heck, I’d probably try to retrieve artwork too. I don’t think my kids have lost anything this way yet. Shocking. And now it will definitely happen tomorrow.

  6. I still prefer windows down to the hermetic seal of air conditioning. So, unless the temperature creeps into the triple digits and as long as we’re moving – windows down and music blaring.

  7. What a great post! You reminded me of being a kid and hanging out the window. Whatever happened to the days when kids could just roam the car. I know, I know, they are projectiles if the brakes have to be slammed on.
    I’m so glad you rescued Teddy.

  8. My daughter has just recently learned the joys of an open car window, having spent the first four years of her life in the back seat of a minivan.

    Now that she’s in a booster seat, I sometimes take her in my car (i.e. the one I drive to work and stuff). She loves so many things about the experience: the window, the fact that it is under her control, the fact that she can open the door and let herself out, the fact that I let her listen to System of a Down or Hypnogaja, er, I mean popular music…

  9. We used to drive down 80 like that all the time-windows down, radio up, foot out the window. I’d probably still make dad pull over if my teddy bear flew out.

  10. Awww, you are such a nice dad to go back and get the Teddy and the hat. Maybe she’ll do the same for HER kids…

  11. It seems every father deals with this at some point. Sadly, my father didn’t go back for the Teddy. 😦

  12. I’ve been there. I’m glad you got her teddy. My kids are subway kids because we live in an urban area–they have no tolerance for cars. They get car-sick. But I have searched high and low for something cherished but carelessly misplaced. Isn’t that part of being a mom? Tough love coming out of your mouth while you’re searching for the lost object and heart glad to find it.

  13. Tough love is hard as being a “heartless son-of-a” Glad you stopped and rescued Teddy. I spent many an hour finding something my girls just couldn’t live without when they were younger. Glad I did.

  14. My FIL employed the sam A/C system and also through out the window any toy that was squabbled over. On a drive from San Diego to Fargo with 5 kids not many toys made it.

  15. Interesting how we have these little rituals with our kids. Though there are times when they seem a little ridiculous to us, they are creating great bonds and memories for them. One that my daughter and I have is before bed. She goes into my room and takes my pillow and then walks by me trying to pretend she’s doesnt have it, giggling all the way. And every night at 11pm I’m pulling it out from under her head so I can go sleep comfortably. She never remembers me taking it back, lol, go figure.

  16. That right there? Is a wonderful story.

  17. Memories! There’s nothing worse than windows down when you have long hair. It gets all tangled and sticks to your lips.

    You’re a good dad. 🙂

  18. It’s awesome to think of a little girl with a memory like that of her dad that could last her entire lifetime. Good job.

  19. I probably would have left the bear.

    (Not really, but it’s fun to act tough, isn’t it?)

  20. My daughter left her “Jane Doll” (home made raggedy ann doll that she could not live without) at a restaurant in Williamsburg when she was three. I wasn’t there. It was the first vacation they took with their dad after our divorce. He is not one to go back for anything but he went back. They didn’t realize it had been left behind til she began crying when they were almost all the way back to Bethesda. He went back. I think it took them two hours round trip!

  21. I’m a wind out the window person. For sure.

  22. michael.offworld June 21, 2009 — 3:33 pm

    Two lessons learned!

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