Inaugural Car Ride: A Portrait

Supper eaten. Table cleared. Dishes washed. Sun going down. Kids in basement with Kevin, going squirrelly. "When can we go for a ride?" How about now? Children racing back and forth between porch and driveway. "Open the car! Open the car!" Right. Car seats. Children dragging car seats off the porch and toward the car. Children scrambling over each other's heads to be the first into the new car. Children shouting. Driveway littered with car seats. Kevin sticking car seats into position, Mama changing her mind about who will sit where, Kevin rearranging car seats. Mama incredibly grumpy. Not helping. Finally, seats in position. Mama straps baby in. Baby instantly stops chewing odd-looking odd-textured stuffed duck (where did it come from? why is it suddenly a favourite chew toy, when he's drowning in options?). Begins screaming. Mama struggles in half-light to fasten straps. Baby screams, with conviction. Children cheer as lowered DVD screen comes to life. Cheer subsides when no movie is instantly forthcoming. Mama snaps final buckle. "Are you going to sit back there?" "I guess so. He's really upset." Mama straps self in. Proof that three can sit comfortably in the middle row. Plenty of leg-room. No time to appreciate, as Kevin backs out of driveway, and new uproar arises. DVD has started up, but won't play. Baby howls. Mama fiddles blindly with controls. "You have it!" But she doesn't. "I think that's the right one, Mommy!" But it isn't. "Try over there!" But she has. Kevin jeopardizes safety to paw around for the remote. The new car has a remote? Baby turning purple with rage. Another cheer erupts. Mama has inadvertently landed on the right button. Paddington Bear begins to play. "I can't hear it! Turn up the volume!" Mama spoils success by poking more buttons. Apparently volume can't be controlled in the rear. Kevin fixes volume, nearly runs red light. Baby shrieks. "Why isn't the movie playing?" Mama lands on correct button again. Kevin hands back remote, pulls into parking lot. "Why are we going here?" Here is Kevin's office. He's dropping off supplies for scotch club. We've travelled about five city blocks. "I'll just leave the car running, then? And be right back?" Yes, please come back. Mama plays peekaboo with baby. Moods improve. Eldest son plays with overhead light. Immensely pleased. Baby laughing. Peekaboo a riot. Mama fiddles with remote. Is promptly scolded by children, and tucks device into side pocket where it is likely to be forgotten. Kevin returns. "Well." "Well." "Should we just go home?" Drive back five blocks. Mama plays peekaboo with increasingly hysterical baby. Kevin shows off nifty high-tech features, such as rearview camera that kicks in when the vehicle is in reverse. It looks potentially confusing. Isn't that what mirrors are for? GPS shows car travelling down familiar streets. Kevin risks life and limb to demonstrate how map on screen can zoom in, and then out. Mama wonders whether screen can be turned off. Kevin fiddles around. Then decides no. Vehicle pulls into driveway, parks. Uproar erupts. "Can't we keep watching the movie?" Children have seen movie approximately five billion times previously. Theme song of Paddington Bear so embedded in Mama's brain, she finds herself humming it on odd occasions. Too darn catchy. The answer is no. The answer is no! The answer is: it's time to floss those cavity-laden teeth and go to bed! The answer satisfies few in the audience. Baby begins howling afresh. Children stumble lacklustrely out of new car. Mama and Kevin exchange heartfelt sighs. Family enters home.

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