As I was checking out at the grocery store tonight the checker, looking at my four dozen eggs and four pounds of butter, inquired as to what I was going to be doing this weekend. “Making toffee, cookies, quiche, and a parking garage,” I replied. The parking garage part surprised him. I explained to the checker that my daughter was obsessed with cars and that we were making her a parking garage for Christmas. As I told him about Middle I felt a wave a happiness and pride wash over me for my one of a kind little girl.
I spend so much time worrying about Middle and frustrated with her behavior that it’s all to easy to forget what an awesome little person she is. How many four and a half year olds can identify every make and model of car on the road? She is an expert on the ubiquitous Hondas and Toyotas that abound here but can also spot a Fiat, Smart Car, or Saab with only a momentary glance. She shouts out the names of cars, rapid fire, as we run through the neighborhood or are out on a drive. She chatters about cars so constantly that her baby sister has picked up the lingo and now I hear a little two year old voice pipe up (correctly) “Mini Cooper!” Middle certainly doesn’t get her love of cars from Husband or I – we could care less and in our driveway are parked a fairly unexciting minivan and a hybrid sedan. As an infant Middle gravitated to toy cars as soon as she was mobile. Now, at four years old, she has an extensive collection of die cast cars. She has little interest in the “pretend” Hot Wheels that don’t represent actual cars; she likes the ones that are tiny models of real cars on the road. She plays with her cars like other girls play with dolls. Her cars have genders and names and she sets them up in elaborate parking lot scenes and lines of traffic. About a year ago she started to talk about Porsches in a dreamy, lovestruck, tone of voice. She tells me when she grows up that she will own ten cars, starting with a Porsche. One of the best conversations ever between my kids occurred in a parking garage as we walked past a Porsche:
Middle: Oh, a Porsche! I am going to get one of those.
Older: They are really expensive.
Middle: How much does a Porsche cost?
Me: I think a new one costs about a hundred thousand dollars.
Older: That is a lot of money. You are never going to have a Porsche.
Middle (with a look of steely determination in her eyes turns to me): How much does an old Porsche cost?
Me: I don’t really know, but we could find out. Maybe an old one that needed some work might only cost ten thousand dollars.
Middle (narrowing her eyes and turning to Older): I am going to get ten thousand dollars and I am going to buy a Porsche.
Older (never one to give up on a point he is making): Well you won’t be able to drive it. You have to be sixteen to drive in America. You’re four.
Middle: Then I will go away from America and I will drive my Porsche there.
Me: Can I come and visit you?
Middle: Yes and I will take you for a ride in my Porsche. Older can’t come. Do you have any jobs I can do to start earning money?
Middle has a second love too: she is fascinated by biology, human pathology in particular. From toddler age, I knew that she had had an interest in all creatures great and small (and dead and alive). When we walk through the grocery store she always asks to visit the “dead animals”. I am pretty sure that her rather loud questions about the cuts of meat, what animal they are from, how they met their demise have scared off more than one customer. When a neighborhood cat killed a rat in our backyard and left its eviscerated body on our back lawn Middle was ecstatic about the prime view of tiny little rodent intestines. I took microbiology this past spring and my textbook quickly became Middle’s favorite storybook. She called it “the book of bad things” and wanted to know the carriers, symptoms, and treatment for every disease within its pages. I picked her up from school one day and her teacher told me that Middle spent the day telling her teachers and friends about Yersinia pestis (bubonic plague). At dinner last week she brought my anatomy book to the table and was contentedly munching on a grilled cheese sandwich while looking at pictures of third degree burns and gangrene. She’ll have no problem studying and snacking in medical school. She’s been saying for awhile that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. When I described various medical specialties to her she lit up at the mention of what a surgeon does. Now when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she will tell you that she wants to be a surgeon, but that she hasn’t decided what kind yet. She will also tell you that she wants ten kids and has names picked out for each of them. And she will tell you that she wants to drive fast cars on the weekend.
We were at the doctor’s office recently and there were quite a few Porsches in the parking lot. Middle wondered why we always see so many Porsches there and I told her that very likely a lot of them belonged to the doctors – doctors can make quite a lot of money – enough to buy a Porsche. “So I really can be a surgeon and have a Porsche when I grow up?” I told her that she most certainly could; that I was sure that there were surgeons with Porsches driving around our city right now. She was so happy at the thought that she skipped into the doctor’s office.
There is nobody in the world like Middle and I have no doubt that I will be riding in the passenger seat of her Porsche one day if she sets her mind to it.