Here I sit in a “park and ride” car lot, waiting to pick up my grand-baby for the weekend, and the scenes of summer road trips unfold before me. A sleek, silver minivan parks a few yards from mine, and I see a mother and her grown daughter struggling to pull two big dogs out of the back seat, trying to move them beyond a car seat containing a toddler who holds and waves his colorful sippy cup. After a few minutes of pushing, pulling, leashing, and juice sloshing, I smile at the family circus before me. I am completely entertained and absorbed as the panting dogs, longing to be free, are finally led past the child who baptizes them generously as they leap to the ground. The older mother grabs the dog leashes and is immediately pulled to a grassy area where her canines can sniff and snuffle around. Meanwhile, the younger mother is searching for something in the van, presumably a wet wipe, or a treat for the tike who is showing his impatience, still strapped in the car seat.
Then, as if to put an exclamation mark on the first family circus, another minivan comes to a stop at the end of the exit ramp very close to the parking lot. Motor still rumbling, the front doors quickly open and a middle aged man and woman hop out of either side of the automobile. The man comes from the passenger side, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. His wife starts around from the driver’s side in similar attire. What grabs my attention about the switching-drivers-on-the-exit-ramp-drill (admit it, most of us have done it) is that the man is wearing only white tube socks on his feet, so he is padding quietly on tip-toes around to the driver’s side. It looks as if he is afraid of waking someone (possibly a pack of napping kids) inside the dark interior. I have to grin at him. I know that he is simply hoping not to soil his white socks on the black asphalt, but the effect is wonderfully silly!
My turn came. I was destined to complete the three-ring circus. My daughter’s black clunker screeched to a halt in the little parking lot, smelling of burnt oil, right beside my own minivan. She’s late again! Here she comes, barreling out of the driver’s side, grabbing the back door and flinging two black diaper bags over her shoulder. I exit my vehicle and open the sliding door on cue. We pass each other, hurriedly give a kiss, and I begin pulling the baby, seat and all, out of her car’s back seat. Meanwhile my daughter has thrown the bags into my van. We pass again, give hugs and kisses and “I’ll call you”s. I secure the precious cargo, we both slam our doors shut almost simultaneously, in a synchronized swimming kind of moment, and we both turn the ignitions. Her car moves swiftly to the lot exit. I am following close behind, and we spin off into separate choreographed directions, neatly finessed. I smile as I exit, imagining myself taking a bow with a wave and a flourish to the still-sitting silver minivan full of dogs, juice cups, and harried adults. “Amateurs,” I grin to myself. And I am sure they are staring after my tail lights, in awe, at the Grand Finale of family circuses.
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