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The windows were cracked just enough to let the smell of a pending summer through and we watched landscapes of crops and trees and isolated houses blur from our focus as we passed by. We answered random questions from a toddler’s inquisitive mind regarding the sun setting and the consequential darkness that follows, the relationships of her cousins whose house we just left and listened as lyrics of songs she knew interrupted her own thought process and we made our way back home.

Somewhere along the paved lines that connect us all together, beyond memories and shared surnames there will always be geography and somewhere along the way she asked where all the cars were going. “Where are they going?” she asked and I wasn’t sure how to respond because I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant. I informed her they were going home just as we were and it seemed true enough that she accepted my answer without asking the same question again.

The last few hours were spent with family celebrating the birthday of my uncle (her great uncle) over strawberry cake with trees in place of the houses she’s used to seeing that line the perimeters of our neighborhood. There were hammocks and trampolines and stretches of grass that could hold several backyards the size of ours and it dawned on me that we were two kids from the country raising a seemingly city girl instead. Not that we’re living in skyscrapers with concrete playgrounds yet the space we’ve claimed as our own is far from the moonlit fields of our childhood and it’s interesting to see her eyes widen when given insight into our past.

We drove along the roads we knew as teenagers with the product of a love we found back then strapped in the backseat and we felt the wind of our hometown blow in through the cracked windows, a predetermined space we allowed and determined was appropriate… just big enough to feel the familiarity but small enough to stop it from consuming us. We controlled the breeze and the nostalgia and let our headlights light the trail we knew all too well until we were within the city limits again.

The streetlights illuminated the dashed markings of the highway and the stoplights filled our vehicle with shades of red and green forcing us to abide by someone else’s rules. We were almost home and the little voice I’ve come so accustomed to in such a short time said the cars were back. “The cars are back, Daddy,” she said and I realized what she meant all along. She wasn’t asking before where they were going, she wanted to know where they went. 

Why were we the only headlights among the fields of darkness? Why was it just the three of us? It’s easy to forget the simple things in life when we’re trying so hard to climb the next hurdle. It’s so easy to let our past dissipate while we try to collect our future, but it’s moments like these when I realize just how everything is supposed to unfold. This journey where a slight detour through the corners of our mind help highlight the paths we’re traveling, where we’ve been and where we’re going, where we’ve left off and where we’ll meet again; this journey where all the cars are going in different directions only to come back together in the end. 

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