Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Jonah On The Road

This past weekend we took a trip to Mississippi. My wife’s grandparents live in Picayune, which is a few miles from the Louisiana border, and we went to visit them. Also, one of my wife’s best friends recently moved to Memphis, but her parents live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, about an hour north of Picayune, and so we got to see them over the weekend as well.

Lots of fun, lots of driving. We logged about a thousand miles on this trip.

It’s good to see family, it’s fun to see friends, it’s interesting to drive through hurricane-ravaged southern states, etc. But my favorite part of the trip was listening to Jonah. Timothy and Stephen had their GameBoys and books. Sam slept or just stared. But Jonah talked, and played, and sang, and chatted . . .

As we listened to music, he would inform us loudly which songs were his favorites and which ones he did not like so much. At one point he provided a one-hour running commentary on the farmlands of east-central Mississippi (“Hello cows, hello trees, hello dead trees . . .”). He would enthusiastically try to engage his brothers to take part in the games he was inventing inside his head, even though they would have none of it.

And he would participate in our conversations. Like ice cubes in a hot drink, his comments were pleasantly surprising. And so here, in chronological order, are my three favorite Jonah quotes of the trip.

1. Jonah on crime and punishment
Before we had even left Atlanta, as we were passing the jail on Cynthia McKinney Parkway (I refer to it at the Cynthia McKinney Jail in a vain attempt at wish-fulfillment). In an effort to steer the boys onto the right path, I pointed out the jail to them, “Look boys, there’s the jail. If you don’t obey the law you’ll go there.” Yes, I’m a blunt instrument.

Stephen asked, “Which building is the jail? The one without any windows?”

I replied, “Yes, it has no windows and is filled with lots of mean people. You don’t want to go there.” Subtlety, that’s the ticket to good parenting.

Jonah wanted to know what would cause him to end up in jail, and I listed the kid-friendly description of offences that they would know were jail-worthy: killing someone, taking money, stealing cars. This was a semi-familiar discussion, and so conversation ended at that point.

Five minutes of silence. Then Jonah piped up, “What if I just borrow the car?”

2. Jonah on pain and happiness
On crossing the state line into Alabama, we stopped at the Rest Area for, you know, some rest. I parked the car as far from the restroom building as I could while still being on the same side of the parking lot. This was, in my mind, a good way to get the boys walk a little. Jonah ran.

Having done our duties, both biological, nerdly (got a map), and sacrilegious (climbing on the granite carving with the Alabama state motto, something along the lines of “Never give up, never surrender” or some such), we were on our way back when Jonah fell and skinned his knee pretty badly. There was flowing blood, albeit briefly, and we cleaned him up, held him, and then put him back in the car with the other boys, who were by that time deep into their personal distractions (book, gameboy, and sullen staring).

Once we got back on the road, Jonah continued to cry, mostly because it was the only thing for him to do (we’re taking lots of LEGO’s on the next trip). His mother and I tried to calm him down, and I finally told him to think about things that make him happy. He sniffled a bit more and then stopped.

Two minutes of silence. Then Jonah: “You mean raccoons?”

3. Jonah on death
At some point, while driving through the wilds of Mississippi (so much fun to type), we hit a stride in our conversations. The big boys would ask a question about a phenomenon, I would explain said phenomenon, and Jonah would comment in his own special way. A few examples might help.

Timothy began, “What happens when a car drives into the water.”

I responded, “It stops running.”

Stephen continued, “Why?”

“Well, because a car’s engine burns gasoline and air, and if it drives into the water there’s no air left to burn. So the engine turns off.” Yes, this is a normal conversation.

Jonah pipes up, “I don’t want to drive the car into the water. I’ll die.”

Later, Timothy continued the questioning, “Dad, how does a black hole kill you?”

I replied, aiming way over their heads, “Well, it can either rip you apart or crush you, depending on how big it is and how you fly into it.”

Stephen: “Cool.”

Jonah: “I don’t want to go into a black hole and die.”

And so on. The swamps on the side of the road? “I don’t want to get eaten by an alligator.” The hurricane? “I don’t want to get killed by a hurricane.”

Now, lest you believe that I’m raising a little goth kid here, except for the 10 seconds in which he’s telling us that he doesn’t want to die, he is as happy and chipper (if not moreso) than any one else I’ve ever met.

He is a child of extremes, my singing, death-obsessed, cheerful, raccoon-loving, Jonah.


At 4:19 PM, Blogger Becki said...

This can be your second book.

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another 5 minutes of hilarity from the Field's home. ALWAYS entertaining!


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