These are the days of who, what, where, when, why
Published 12:14 am Sunday, May 29, 2016
Somewhere outside the small town of Water Valley, the realization hit me. My mother’s good-natured curse, the kind offered up to adolescents perhaps since the beginning of time, had come true.
The memory came back with a question, or more to the point, a barrage of questions.
Just moments before I’d punched “home” in to the car’s GPS and headed south. Work obligations had me spending four days last week in the City of Oxford. While I know the way home quite well, there’s a certain guy satisfaction in trying to gauge how accurate the brain inside the GPS is at guessing our destination time.
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“Prepare to turn left in 1,000 feet,” the monotone voice uttered.
I paid no attention to the direction; I knew the way.
From the backseat, a response came.
“Who’s saying that, Daddy?” my 3-year-old interrogator quizzed.
“That’s the GPS in the car.”
“What did she say?” Anna asked.
“She said we need to turn left in a minute,” I replied.
“Why is she talking, Daddy?”
“Because I told the car to help give us directions home.”
“How does she know how to get home?” Anna continued.
“Because I gave her the address to our house,” I said.
“She must be from Natchez, Mississippi, then,” Anna replied.
Her logic was sound. How in the world would someone who didn’t know Natchez recognize a Natchez address? Made perfect sense to her 3-year-old mind.
She wasn’t fazed by the idea that a woman’s voice in our car was talking to her. In her world, people can talk into their telephones and hear — and in many cases see — the person or persons on the other end.
That was the stuff of science fiction when I was a child, now it’s a commonplace thing.
I can only imagine the technological changes she’ll see in her life.
She still struggles with comprehending things related to travel. As soon as we leave the confines of the Natchez area she begins asking, “What state are we in?”
“We’re in Mississippi, baby.”
“No, what state are we in now?”
“We’re in Brookhaven. It’s in Mississippi.”
Living with an ever-growing preschool mind is an interesting thing.
It’s a bit like what I can imagine of being married to a professional military terrorist interrogator.
After a while, the litany of short questions forms a mind-piercing staccato in your ear.
At breakfast one morning on the trip, the questions started early.
“Who is that, Daddy?”
“I don’t know, baby, just a man getting some breakfast.”
“What’s his name? Where does he live?”
“I don’t know, baby.”
“What’s he doing, Daddy?”
“He’s getting a cup of coffee.”
“What color thing is he putting in it?” she asked either referring to the artificial sweetener packets she had seen earlier or the bowl filled with small flavored creamer packets.
“I don’t know, baby.”
“Why don’t you know, Daddy?”
“Because he’s 25 feet away from me, and I cannot see that far.”
As annoying as the constant questions can be at times, logically, I know pausing to help answer them will help her gain a better understanding of the world around her.
And with almost each question-and-answer volley, I can hear my mother’s voice.
“I hope you have one just like you,” she said.
Yours truly famously badgered my own father sometimes to the point at which he’d just make up an answer. He told me once that the reason frogs could swim underwater and live on the land was because they were special on the inside.
“Why were they special,” the young me asked.
Thinking quickly, Dad did the best he could, he made up something.
“It’s because they have a uni-organ inside.”
“Uni-organ. It helps them breathe on land and in water.”
I learned a great deal — most of it far more truthful than the fabled “uni-organ” from my parents. I can only hope that I can be as good of a parent for my little questioner that they were for me when my world was a mystery and questions were the only way to grasp the things around me.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.