In the mornings I take Nola to horse camp with her friend Bella who lives next door. It’s a 40–45 minute drive (one way) depending on traffic. It’s not unpleasant. I usually zone out and crank the tunes. Sometimes I listen to the girls talk. It’s usually about the horses and their personalities. It’s a whole lot of drama.

Nola: Barbi would not listen yesterday. It was like she forgot how to trot. I’m like, I know you know how to trot, Barbi.

Bella: I know. And Che wouldn’t eat her treat when we were done. I’m like c’mon, Che, it’s so good.

Nola: Che never eats her treats.

Bella: I know, right? Maybe today she will.

But this isn’t really about the horses. It’s mostly about Bella. And hay.

This morning Bella meets us in the backyard by the garage. She is right next to the door eyeing my keys as I unlock it.

Bella: We had to get keys made the other day and our garage key looks just like your garage key.

Steve: With the holes in it?

Bella: Yeah. I tried our key in your garage door last night and it went in, but it didn’t unlock it. It wouldn’t turn.

Bella is very logical and methodical. She likes to make things. Not unrelated, we have one of those snap circuit sets, similar to the kind that they used to sell at Radio Shack. You can make a doorbell, or a police siren. You can also make lights flash on and off. There’s a propeller you can make spin. It comes with directions; recipes that explain how to make all these things and their assorted variations. I think it was originally a gift for Nola, but it didn’t fall within her interests. So it stayed hidden in a closet until Judah found it. He likes to play with the sounds and lights, but only after Pam or I build something. It’s out with the current round of toys. Bella recently discovered it when she was over. What was interesting is that she didn’t read or need the directions. She just started making something for Judah that flashed lights. I don’t even know how she did what she did because a lot of the pieces were stacked. There’s nothing in the directions about stacking.

It doesn’t concern me that Bella was trying to get in our garage. I’m sure she’s been with Nola while she was using my keys. I understood the logic. Further, I know that if I were 9 I would do the exact same thing.

Steve: Oh, well, that sounds right.

Bella: You could probably put your key in our garage door. I bet it would go in, but it probably wouldn’t unlock it.

Steve: No, probably not. Everyone buckled in?

Nola & Bella: Yes!

I pull out of the garage into the alley.

Bella: How many cars can you fit in your garage?

Steve: Two.

Bella: You guys just have one car, right?

Steve: Yes. Just the one you always see us drive.

Bella: The black one?

Steve: The black one you’re in right now?

Bella: Yeah.

Steve: Um, yes. Just this one.

I stop at the end, make a right onto the street.

Bella: Are you going to take the highway?

Steve: You mean like yesterday and the day before and the entire week last week?

Bella: Yeah.

Steve: Um… I don’t know. Maybe.

Bella: I like the highway.

Nola: I like the highway, too.

Steve: Yes, Bella, I will take the highway like yesterday. Why are you asking, sweetie?

Bella: Because yesterday my mom took main streets. Google Maps told her to take another way besides the highway,

I bring the girls in the morning and Bella’s mom picks them up in the afternoon. Sometimes I have to wait for a train there AND on the way back, but the morning drive is MUCH better than the afternoon drive. I know because we had to switch once. The morning is a lot less traff-icky.

Steve: I’m sorry, sweetie. I was being facetious before when you were asking me about the highway. I apologize. Google Maps says to take the highway.

I know the way now, but I always check Google Maps before I start out in case it suggests another route. I’m not sure what people did before Google Maps. I know there was folded paper, squiggly colored lines, and XY coordinates. People would also call for directions and then write them down. I guess. I don’t remember. Google Maps is an extraordinary thing if you stop and think about it.

Bella: I think the keys are the same, but slightly different in the long part.

Steve: What?

Bella: The garage keys. They’re the same kind of key except for the long part. The long part is slightly different.

Steve: You know, that’s actually the key to keys.

Bella: What?

Steve: The teeth, the long part. That’s the KEY… to KEYS.

Nola: Da-AD!

I turn up the music and let the girls talk behind me. I half-listen. But then I full listen because it sounds like Nola said she’s reading Harry Potter and we just read Harry Potter. ALL of it. It was our thing. I turn the music down.

Steve: Are you reading Harry Potter?

Nola: Yes.

Steve: But I thought we already-

Nola: The new one.

Steve: What new one?

I’m on the internet. I have a Twitter feed. I have my finger on the pulse of popular culture. Surely if there were a new Harry Potter book I would-

Nola: The Cursed Child. It’s a play.

Oh, right. That. But I thought we decided to take a break.

Steve: I thought we decided to take a break.

Nola: I know, but-

Bella: It’s mine. She’s borrowing it. It’s so good.

Bella is a reader. I think she just read Lord of the Rings. Or maybe it was The Hobbit. She wants to read The Song of Fire and Ice — she’s always asking Alexa to play the Game of Thrones theme — but her parents said no. I don’t know that she fully groks all that she reads, but she devours books.

Steve: Really?

Bella: Yeah, it’s really interesting.

Steve: Is this the one where Harry goes into space and has to fight the empire?

Bella: What?

Steve: He finds these robots and they have plans about how to destroy the Death Star and-

Bella: No, it has Lord Voldemort from when-

Steve: You mean Lord Vader?

Bella: Who?

Nola: Da-AD!

After the highway we take a main road. Before we get to the bridge, there’s a field with round bales of hay everywhere. I do my bit.

The first time I drove the girls and saw the field, I couldn’t help myself…

Steve: Oh, hay! Hey hey HAY HAY! Hey, hay! Heeeeeey! Hey hey hey! (And so on.)

Bella: Why does your dad keep saying that?

Nola (pointing): Because of all the hay.

After the first day of horse camp, Bella’s mom did the afternoon run and brought the girls home. A short while later, Bella rang the front doorbell.

Bella: Can Nola play?

Steve: Of course. She’s upstairs changing. Nolllla!



Bella: Your hay joke was really funny.

Steve: Thanks.

So long story much more simplified, I do the hay joke EVERY morning. It’s the highlight of the drive. The girls look forward to it. In fact, they do it with me and laugh EVERY time, like now…

Steve, Nola, & Bella: Oh, hay! Hey Hey HAY HAY! Hey, hay! Heeeeeey! Hey hey hey! (And so on.)

Note: The girls do the joke with Bella’s mom, too. But apparently it’s not as funny. Pun slightly intended, it’s probably my delivery.

Full disclosure: I’m sure it’s my delivery. I tend to go WAY over the top.

Fuller disclosure: Bella was the one behind Nola’s Lego phase. Nola has returned the favor with Bella’s horse phase.

Fullest disclosure: So now Bella’s parents have joined Pam and I in also hoping it passes…

Fun fact: There’s an area where two lanes merge into one. There are signs; Left Lane Ends. I’m not a dick. I slow my roll, go into the right lane, and patiently wait. It makes me INSANE when a whole line of cars make the light behind me and jack up the left lane, essentially zooming past everyone and cutting in front. WHAT THE F*** YOU ENTITLED PIECES OF S*** A******* M************!!! But then I pretend they are all en route to the hospital because they have explosive diarrhea. Oh, and their cars have cloth interiors. Otherwise I’d totally stroke out.

Have a nice day unless you have other plans.