With her up front at the wheel and me in the back, the rearview mirror became our playground. She’d wink at me or make funny faces at stop signs or red lights. Sometimes she’d catch me playing peek-a-boo and always found a way to let me know “I see you.” And I’d be her understudy, mimicking her graceful movements when she’d use it to put makeup on before heading into church or work.
The mirror was a courtroom too, conveying timely reprimands for misconduct. I caught more than my fair share of hawk eyes bearing down my reflection. For instance, I was sure to come face-to-face with her honor when I “forgot” that the lever to roll the window up and down was not a toy. (In my defense, I was defenseless—I didn’t inspire the design defect that made the window’s apparatus alluring for a playful sprite such as my little lovely self.)
Among its many feats, the June bug coasting down the highway was also almost always an amphitheater. It often vibrated with Mom’s melodious wavelengths carrying AM or FM vibes from the airway to my ear canal. But, this trip, the playground was closed. The courtroom was not in session. The concert hall was concert-less. This time, the car was but a car. Mom was but a driver. I was but a passenger.
There were no amusing faces; no peeks to boo to; no citations; no singalongs. Mom was still. I took the cue and was still too. Mom was quiet. So, I followed suit. The stoic disposition inside the vehicle enhanced the velocity with which the cars and trees outside of it whipped by.
We mulled along until we made it to the bridge. When we got to this checkpoint, I knew we were halfway back to our destination with Daddy Jimmy. The tires sang was we rode over the groves etched within the bridge’s pavement.
With the unusual absence of music, the song was gone too soon. Mom just drove and drove. At some point, I could tell that we were getting close to Daddy Jimmy’s house. The closer we got the more excited I became.
Maybe Daddy Jimmy could order Chinese?
Maybe we could play games?
Was he all done with the boxes that were there before I went to Nana and PopPop’s house?
I was so preoccupied with the questions welling up inside my mind that I almost missed it. We got to the light where we turn to parallel park in front of the house. Yet instead on merging into the turning lane, Mom kept on driving. She went right past home without so much as blinking. My head, however, followed the trajectory of Daddy Jimmy’s house as we zipped by it.
When I could not crane my neck any farther, I ripped my eyes over to the rearview mirror expecting to find Mom’s eyes waiting for my own. But they were absent from the lens. Utter confusion compelled me to ask why she passed Daddy Jimmy’s house, but Mom was the one to speak.
“Surprise! Guess what honeybunch?” Her words silenced the silence that had become the backseat driver. “We’re going to a new house now.”
I didn’t know we were getting a new house. “That’s where Daddy Jimmy must be waiting for us,” I thought to myself.
Mommy kept driving until she stopped the car in front of a building that was familiar to her, foreign to me. She helped me get out the car. And we went inside up the stairs too. We got to the to meet some doors. Mommy walked up to one of the doors and said, “This is our new house.” She opened it, and I ran inside.
“Daddy Jimmy! Daddy Jimmy? We’re home! Where are you?” I exclaimed. I saw some boxes, but I not see Daddy Jimmy. I asked Mom, but she didn’t say where he was. Instead, Mom took me by my hand and showed me all the rooms in the new house. The tour was as short as it was insightful.
There was a room with a big bed in it and a closet. Outside of the bedroom. there was a bathroom. There was a kitchen with a table, refrigerator, and oven. Across from the kitchen was a quaint den featuring a windowed nook.
I asked Mommy again where Daddy Jimmy went. But then, Mommy asked if I wanted some pizza. She knew just how much I love pizza. Like a reflex I said, “Yes, yes, yes yes pleeeaaassse.” So, Mommy went into the kitchen and she started talking on the phone to place an order.
Daddy Jimmy must be moving some more boxes from the old place, I thought. Yeah…not so much. Sometimes ignorance is the best gift someone can give. Sometimes a car ride is the best good-bye you can get.