Three days ago:
The daughter: "Mommy, have you ever ridden a motorcycle?"
Me, vaguely, engrossed in whatever I'm doing: "Yes."
The daughter: "No you haven't!"
Me, startled: "What?"
The daughter: "You haven't ridden a motorcycle!"
Me: "What are you talking about? Yes, I have."
The daughter: "You have not ridden a motorcycle."
Me: "Yes. I have."
The daughter: "You haven't."
Me: "Why did you ask me if you're going to immediately deny I've done it?"
She scowls at me. There is subtext here, something percolating underneath that I can't immediately see.
The daughter: "Do you have photographic evidence?"
Me: "Of what?"
The daughter: "That you rode a motorcycle."
Oh, we're back to that.
Me: "No. Nor do I have the phone number of the person with whom I was riding, so you can't call him to confirm it."
The daughter: "Him?"
Me, firmly: "Him."
The daughter: "Not Dad."
I hear the spouse laugh.
So that's what it is. Empirical evidence. Other men.
The daughter: "Who?"
Me: "Someone I dated before."
She is still dissatisfied. I have somehow demonstrated disloyalty.
I guess this is the point where adolescents and pre-adolescents suddenly begin to realize that their parents are human. I've never pretended to be anything but, and have always been candid with the kids when I've made a mistake or have been too quick to become angry with them. But they are reaching the sudden and unmistakable realization that we have lives and histories in our own right. Mommy can leave for a day and call home and be laughing because she is off having fun on her own.
Mommy has ridden motorcycles with other people.
And it was not George Clooney. Perhaps he seemed safer, or perhaps he was the first hint of an implicit threat. It dawned on her back in October that if she could have crushes, then maybe I was susceptible, too. Clearly, she has been thinking about this and come to the conclusion that it's possible Mommy isn't just a mommy. But it was funny and giggly then, and I'd only used him as an example, anyway.
Sorry, George. I do think you're awfully cute. But you're just not my type.
Neither, really, was the motorcycle.
Go listen to some good music: "Born to Run" from the album Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.