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Proclamations From The Car Seat

   While traditional navigation methods include the use of a sextant, compass and chronometer, I've discovered that children have a different view of the world and use the tools available to them to learn their way home.  From an early age, my daughter could look up from her car seat and see only the tops of highway signs as we traveled all over the country.  She learned to recognize them and associated them with places we would go.  As we would near the interstate exit leading to our house, she could see the incredibly tall McDonald's sign that shone like a beacon from two exits away.  The tiny princess in the convertible rear facing car seat would see the familiar yellow glow of the sign as we passed and immediately ask if we were back in our land.   I suppose our trips to the grocery store or across the country felt more like a journey across feudal lands to a child. When you are two, the world revolves around you and in the typical egocentric style of a monarch, the signs of home are signs of your world and your land.  The McDonald's sign was a clear landmark that we were indeed home and back in our land. 

   It became a game to see who could spot the first beacon of light from the glowing McDonald's landmark and someone in the car would yell out, at ear piercing levels, "I see the McDonald's sign, first!"  It was much like claiming the land yours and all other passengers would sink down into their seats in regret that they weren't paying better attention as defeat sunk in and they wished that they would have been the one to announce such grand information.    It's nothing that an M & M McFlurry can't cure though.  

   At our McDonald's, that masquerades as an Omni Station, there is a bench with a replica of Ronald McDonald sitting on it.  The kids have always climbed all over this poor clown.  Once, while traveling outside our land, we stopped at another McDonald's where my daughter discovered, a moment too late, that the man sitting on the end of the bench with his leg crossed and arm outstretched was not the fake Ronald and instead was a very concerned elderly gentleman trying to figure out why kids were suddenly crawling on him and why I didn't promote stranger danger awareness through better parenting skills.  

   When traveling home from business, I call my kids and announce that I am almost home. All references to my location revolve around the McDonald's sign.   If I say, "I can see the McDonald's sign, first" it means that mom is only minutes from the house.  I could be stuck in concourse B of the Hartsfield International Airport or be three miles from my exit and it would make no difference unless I could see the McDonald's sign.   It is the main point of reference for all travel.  

   My children's friends learned quickly about the importance of being the first one to see the sign and often one of them would pipe up from three rows back and remind us that our land might actually be their land, too, as they proclaimed the sighting of the tall yellow sign. Oddly, I was riding with a friend one day and as we neared our exit to home, their child was quick to announce that she saw the McDonald's sign first.  My tradition had taken flight and now others were using my lighthouse, my landmark, my beacon of home.   I wasn't sure if I liked this or not.  I think they may have been confusing my land with their land, but since there is no monarchy in town, I suppose we can share our tall yellow sign.  It's always best to get everyone back safe and sound and knowing you are under the soft glow of the golden arches is a sure sign of a safe journey home for all. 

   Landmarks of home are different for different people.  Our daughter in Denver relies on a giant blue pony outside of the airport.  My brother relies on perfectly aligned bottles of water in his refrigerator. Others may look for lighthouses or sky needles or simply a welcoming face at the front door. There are often many paths that lead to home and even though they may not be traveled as often as we wish, the knowledge of knowing they are there, makes all the difference.  

   My own navigation skills were directly inherited from my father and I never feel lost no matter where I am.  I learned early that there is always a road or a path that will take me home.  I may have to drive through some rice fields or catch a second plane, but getting home has never been a problem for me.  I hope that my children understand the importance of landmarks and recognize the paths homeward no matter where they travel.  They don't need a sextant or a compass or a GPS system to guide them, as long as McDonald's continues to place ridiculously tall signs along their path.  

   While other families are now battling to determine who sees the McDonald's sign first, I know that one day, my children will call from their own car, with their own children, and I hope I hear someone exclaim, "I see the McDonald's sign, first."  I will then know that my children have learned the importance of finding their way home.  


Anonymous said…
Another great story, seemingly conjured out of a wisp of an idea and built carefully into a fun and memorable journey down the road to home, wherever that may be. It's always a pleasure to read your stories of everyday life, told with warmth and humor.

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