PUNGO — My wife strapped the five year old into her booster in the backseat of the truck, and she headed back into the house while I waited for the 12 year old.
She would be delivered to the middle school, our first stop. I composed a little song in my head, then noticed how the 12 year old’s flip-flops sat on the passenger’s side floor from our last ride together.
Sure enough, she ran out carrying her sneakers in one hand and wearing only socks. She tends to wear flip-flops out to the truck and put her shoes on while on the way to school. If only for now. She won’t be in the passenger seat forever.
We pulled out of our path in Pungo, and I started to sing to her. I am quite a singer.
I’m gonna be a teenager …
“Obnoxious,” the 12 year old said.
Obnoxious like great? I asked.
“Obnoxious like annoying.”
Or the way bad means good sometimes? Because bad used to be good, I explained.
“What, like in the ‘80s?”
“I don’t think anybody ever did that.”
They really did, I maintained. The ‘80s were terrible.
“That’s weird,” she said.
You looking forward to being a teenager?
She thought that over. “I’m looking forward to being able to make money babysitting.”
We turned at the Pungo light.
“Plus, when I’m 14, I can legally be a fulltime volunteer at the senior center instead of coming in just once or twice a week.”
I have no idea if that actually checks out, but she meant the Senior Resource Center, Inc., in Creeds. She volunteered there this past summer. Loves the place and the people.
After a moment, I asked what the world is like when you’re 12. I forget.
She took a moment to answer.
“Nothing ever makes sense. I can see so many ways of fixing stuff, and nobody want to listen to me.”
We turned onto West Neck Road.
What do you want to fix first?
“The people coming in and turning perfectly good fields into new housing developments we don’t really need.”
She talked about that for a while, about runoff and flooding and chasing a buck. Twelve years old. She talks this way.
I could only try to tell her how it’s complicated, that sad old word you learn too well when 12 is in the rearview mirror.
We drove through Courthouse, closer to the middle school.
There was still time to sing.
It’s a great song.
“No, it’s not.”
Almost at the school. Can you roll down your window?
“No, no, no, no, no.”
Roll down your window. I want everyone to hear it. I’m gonna be a teenager/I think I know the answers/Even though I don’t have life experience …
The five year old chimed in.
“That is kind of awful.”
I love you, too, kid.
“Maybe you should practice other songs,” the five year old offered.
We pulled into the middle school lot. Here we were. The 12 year old knew I meant to sing.
“No,” she pleaded. “No.”
You know I love you because I sing to you.
“Please, don’t,” the five year old begged.
It’s going to happen, I said. This is right.
“This is evil,” the 12 year old said.
“You are so evil,” the five year old agreed.
By evil, you mean beautiful?
“I mean evil as in evil,” the 12 year old said. “As in pure, dark lord evil.”
I glanced down at her feet, and I asked why was she waiting until now, when we were at the school, to put her shoes on?
“Eh,” she replied. On account she is 12.
We got in line at the drop off point.
“Are you going to sing it?” the five year old asked.
You know I’m going to sing it.
“Please don’t sing it,” the 12 year old said.
I’m gonna be a teenager/I’m gonna be a teenager … She jumped out of the car, headed toward the school doors. So I did the other truly evil thing you can do to a middle school kid while peers and teachers are around.
I yelled how I love her, hit her square in the backpack with my words, and then I set off to deliver the five year old to preschool.
The little one is either too inexperienced to know great music when she hears it or too young to lie.
“That was so awful,” she said.
It was great.
© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC