The school where I teach and the girls learn, is about a half hour drive from home. I don't mind the commute, because it gives me time to mentally transition from home to work and back to home again. Katherine has been riding with me since kindergarten and she is an easy companion. Most days, she just curls up with a book for the whole drive. But last summer, when I contemplated the daily drive with both girls, I felt a sense of dread. While either of my daughters travel well alone, they are terribly prone to bickering and fighting when they have to share a backseat. And I was going to face this for an hour every day...
Much to my surprise, the daily commute as a trio has proven to be easy. Fun even. We have a rotation of who gets to pick the music and strict lists of consequences for any misbehavior. (So far, having to sit on your bed until dinner because you fought with your sister has only had to be enforced once!) Most days we chat or listen to music or just zone out. And we talk a lot.
Rachel often asks for stories about when she was little. Or when Katherine was little. Or when I was little. Really, she just likes funny stories about babies.
Katherine has always been know for saving her deepest questions for the car, when conversation is easier because eye contact is not required. Early mornings, when I am not yet fully awake are her favorites. Rachel has picked up on this, too. I am always a bit startled to be driving along, thinking about what I need to do at work and keeping an eye out for deer, when some Big Question floats over the back seat. Like "Why didn't my birth mother keep me?" Or "Why does God let people get cancer?" Or even "Where does the Tooth Fairy live?"
I love it when the girls forget that I am there and just go off into their joint fantasy land while I eavesdrop. They discuss the imaginary siblings who populate our house. They play an elaborate imaginary video game involving blasting signs and telephone poles as we pass. Katherine plays the announcer for games and pageants where Rachel is a contestant. They do hand clapping chants and silly rhymes with actions.
Last week, Rachel said "Kate, pretend you're my mom. What will you pack for my lunch?" Katherine thought a moment and then replied "Pizza roll-ups, mango pudding, cucumbers, and pineapple." Rachel was delighted with the menu and they both spent the next five minutes drooling over this fabulous, entirely imaginary, lunch.
They sing. A lot. Sometimes they sing along with the radio, but most of the time they sing whatever is on their inner song track. (Which often becomes my ear worm of the day.) Often, they sing songs from their school music class or programs. Right now, Yankee Doodle Dandy is a favorite. It makes me smile to hear my Chinese born daughters enthusiastically sing "I'm a real life nephew of my Uncle Sam, born on the 4th of July". Sometimes Rachel sings and Kate does a sort of beat box or makes her hands into a trumpet and accompanies.
My favorite times are when they sing songs just because the melodies are beautiful. Rachel on her own warbles along in a mostly tuneless, much too high fashion. But with Katherine's strong, confident voice to follow, she has learned to hold her own. They sing together and once Rachel has the melody, Katherine sings harmony around her. Michael Row the Boat Ashore. Silent Night. Amazing Grace. It can be quite beautiful...
This will be the only year that all three of us will ride together to school each day. The only year that Katherine and Rachel will ever be in the same school together. So I know these days are numbered. But I am so glad that we have had this time to learn to travel together and that my girls have learned to be good sisters to each other. So for the next 5 1/2 months, I am looking forward to the amazing things I am going to hear from the back seat.