“Honk! Honk! HONK!” A horn blares right to the center of my eardrum.
My son and I are hurrying down the narrow sidewalk in our Parisian quartier, moving faster than the line of cars backed up at the red light alongside us. They’re not supposed to be honking in the city, I think to myself. Driving law dictates that you may only honk in an emergency, to warn of imminent danger. And being pissed off that you’re stuck in traffic doesn’t constitute an emergency, though that driver is in imminent danger of getting a dirty look from me if he keeps blasting that thing in my ear.
“Honk, honk, honk,” my son imitates. “That’s funny!”
We’re clearly seeing two different sides to this story.
We continue on our journey and approach the huge construction site that is part of our daily ritual.
“Bonjour Madame, bonjour Leo,” the friendly guy with the gap-toothed smile at the entrance says. He knows us by now. How could he not? We stop and watch the construction, the cranes, the tractopelles and pelleteuses and other machines I will only ever know the name of in French each morning on our way to preschool.
If Leo has been good that morning, I let him watch for several minutes. If he’s been naughty, fighting me about getting dressed, going to the bathroom before leaving, whatever, I only let him watch for one minute. But we always watch. He is absorbed by it – so curious about the scene before him. It’s possible he learns more in those few minutes than he does the whole day at school. Well, actually, I hope not otherwise we might need to switch schools. But you get my point.
“Why is the tractopelle putting the dirt there? Why is that man pointing at the crane? Where is the camion-toupie going to dump all that cement?” His vocabulary in French impresses me, his three-year-old mind often knowing more words than his American mama does.
I try to stand off to the edge of the sidewalk as we watch, but people bump into us anyway, muttering under their breaths. Everyone’s in a hurry, hurry, hurry.
We eventually tear ourselves away from the riveting scene and I drop Leo off at school, where he tells his teacher the story of our morning. “Mr. Construction Man knows us! He says, ‘Hello Mama and hello Leo’ every day.”
It’s funny how he sees it—obviously “Mr. Construction Man” called me Madame and not Mama—but that’s how Leo’s story goes. That’s how his little ears heard it.
“…and then they dumped all the cement all over the ground and cars were honking and it was awesome!”
To me, the morning walk is filled with loud noises and annoying people, all of us getting in each other’s way as we’re trying to get where we need to go.
To my son, the morning walk is just about the coolest thing ever.
I like his story better.