One late fall afternoon, an exhausted working mother was driving her then 4-year-old daughter, back from the school in Lynnwood where her husband taught at, and her daughter attended, all the 45 miles away back home to West Seattle. Usually these long car rides, in traffic, on I-5, were reserved for her husband to enjoy for an hour and a half, twice a day, five days a week. In this particularly busy, beginning of the year season, the universe, and faculty administration, decided that the already over worked and underpaid teacher should have extra out of the classroom duties and spend the week away from his familiar habitat, at an overnight camp, on a boat, trapped with smelly middle schoolers. This meant that the working downtown Seattle mother, had the pleasure of bringing her junior preschool child all the way to the north pole, back to the center, back north again, and then homeward to the south.
Through the sludge of traffic and rain, the girl began shrieking and furiously kicking the back of the mother’s seat. “Dear child”, the wearied mother said, “what is wrong, in this minute (that wasn’t wrong in the previous minute), and rather than hurl your Lacrosse Peacock at me, could you please, USE YOUR WORDS!!!?” Between sobs, and snot, the voice from the tiny human in the back-car seat declared, “the ocean is following us.” South Lake Union mockingly smiled wide in response, opening its grinning mouth to show an impressive body of water, flanked by smiling Amazon boxed buildings. “The Ocean, is following, us?” the mother asked, in search of confirmation for source of the stress that was causing her daughter to become unglued. The emotionally torn apart child had noticed that as she continued to move from the north to the south, the Ocean was on to her every move. It was leering at her, daring her to engage, and notice, what was different on this particular day, this particular car ride, this particular hour and season, haunting her to reconcile in her brain that something was off, something was amiss. The mother’s brow furrowed, and her eyes became a sharp puzzled edge. “Uh, Okay, so, umm, okay, umm, I suppose you could say that the ocean is following us, but, is that a big deal, or a little deal? (Yes, the mother stole these clever words from the play therapist they had started with at the end of the child’s first year of preschool.) After the roar and rumble, the little voice, through a snot nosed filter, explained that “it’s…a…big…deal. The ocean is supposed to be blue.” Completely intrigued, bewildered, and now personally bothered, the mother’s face and shoulders scrunched up. She quickly took her eyes off the road in front of her, looked in the rear-view mirror, at her distressed child, and then out to the side window. Her child was exactly right, in that, something, the ocean, was wrong, menacingly taunting, throwing off the equilibrium of the 4-year old’s constitution, and thus the sanity of the already near insane brain of a mother. The waves of this tantrum followed the mother and child all the way home. Pulled safely into their West Seattle garage, the mother looked back at the inquisitive child, passed out from exertion, snoring under the Curious George blanket, and sobbed, her own tears, a stream, a puddle, and an ocean of blue, gone gray.