Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Post Musings on a Buick memory, Zoning out

In Post, I state that I have a mind like a steel sieve.  In Post, I mention riding in the back seat of the family station wagon as a child and asking "OK, where is it we're going?"

The question got a round of laughter from my parents and sisters.  It was another case of me not paying attention again.  I was only mildly annoyed that they were amused. 

Here's what I remember.  We had been at Grandma D's.  When we got into the car, I assumed we were going home.  Car rides aren't anything to pay particular attention to, so I just thought my own thoughts and waited until it was over.

I looked up and we were driving west on Pacific Coast Highway, paralleling the Torrance Airport.  I could see the strip of strawberry field that ran along it, although it wasn't the right season for the stand to be open, and strawberries were an expensive treat anyway, so I wasn't even considering hoping that we'd be stopping for strawberries.

The location and direction meant that we had gone past our house and must be going somewhere else.  Before we went to Grandma's, we hadn't talked about going anywhere else.  And if they had talked about going somewhere while we were at Grandma's, I had missed it.

The fact that my sister's giggled makes me think I had missed something said during the goodbyes or that they had mentioned it after we were in the car.  They never explained.  They may not have explained were we were going, either, but that's less likely.  I probably just don't remember now because where we were going wasn't the important part of that memory. 

Zoning out during the adults saying goodbye is not something I would ever apologize for.  The adults in our family said long goodbyes, long relocating goodbyes. At Grandma's house, they would often start in the living room.  Then they'd do a final chat and after a few minutes say they really had to go and relocate to near the kitchen door.

Someone would think of something else, and the chatting would continue at the kitchen door, with the door at least partway open.  By then, us kids would have been shepherded into motion and we didn't have anything to chat about, so we'd go stand by the locked car while they drifted out onto the porch and continued chatting.

In fairness, some of the chatting was a leaving kind of chatting.  They swapped their intentions of things they would do soon and before we would all meet again.  They swapped information about what other relatives might be doing in the near future and that might happen during the time we were gone.

By the time everyone got to the car, I was well and truly into my own thoughts out of self-preservation.  Then the car would be unlocked and us kids would get in, because getting us in was keeping control of the departure.  Then one or more adults would stand with the against an open car door and they'd all keep talking.

It wasn't continuous talking, now that I think about it.  They'd hold still while they chatted, but then the topic would peter out and they'd make goodbye noises and start moving to the next Station of the Departure.  But at the next Station, they'd think of something else, and the conversation would well up again on the new topic.

Where are we, now?  My parents are sitting in the front seat and they've clasped their seat belts.  They've rolled down the windows (no automatic windows - even when automatic windows become standard, they'll resist getting them on the grounds that they'll break long before they'd want to sell the car, and broken window switches would leave everyone sweltering), rested their arms on the window ledge, and leaned out to continue talking.

I do not blame me for not listening to all of that.  It was never anything that was interesting to a kid, that they talked about.  Maybe if they'd talked about dismembering me, I'd have heard that, but it would have taken something out of the ordinary to seep through whatever more interesting conversation I had going in my head. 

It was just a little off-putting to look up and not know where we were going.  And it was just a little annoying that everyone chuckled.  I can remember thinking that I didn't want to lose track like that again.  I guess that's why I remember the incident, even if I don't remember all the details.

I can't say I learned not to zone out.  But I might have learned to check back in more often.  And I definitely learned not to ask directly about anything that I obviously missed. 

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