Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Car Gene

One of the very cool things about having grandchildren is seeing genetics in action. Today: the car gene, which my grandson Jake clearly inherited from his grandfather. We spent the morning at a vintage car show out at Indianapolis Raceway Park, which according to Jake was "a dream come true."

"Holy crap" he said when he got his first look at the rows and rows and rows of fabulous cars. He's a pony car guy, it turns out--meaning he really likes Camaros and Mustangs. He could spot them a mile away!

We drove Steve's '55 Chevy, and when Jake saw cars he liked he asked, "Does it go faster than your car?" When Steve answered, he'd ask, "On a straight track or an oval?"

He's always loved anything with an engine. I remember being fascinated at how different his language acquisition was from his cousin, Heidi's. She was all about feelings and ideas. When she was about eighteen months old, she had a love affair with the number two. "Two!" she'd cry, in ecstasy, every time she saw it. Jake was all about...nouns, primarily automotive. Race car, pick-up truck, semi, motorcycle,front-loader. When he was three, "horsepower" entered his vocabulary. Around the same time, we realized that he recognized the particular sound of a Harley.

There are moments when it's so clear that we are made of those who came before us. Something we love and gravitate to, a certain stubborn expression, the texture of our hair or color of our eyes, a crooked tooth, a hand gesture, a smile.

Just like the fictional characters we create are made of everyone we've ever known--and through some kind of alchemy become absolutely themselves. Each one like no other person who has ever lived anywhere, any time in real life or in a story.

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