Janet Hommel Mangas: Enjoying a good car talk

I had the blessing of driving my youngest 9-year-old nephew to school a few weeks ago, and I was reminded how much I missed the on-the-road talk time with my three grown daughters.

When I picked Drew up and he was safely buckled in, I took a photo to send to my sister-in-law as proof that 1) we were ahead of schedule, 2) I was, indeed, a good aunt and (C) he was grinning ear-to-ear.

Amanda texted back, “He’s never that happy in the car with us.”

My reply: “Because YOU never let him skip school and go to the zoo!”

Even though Amanda replied, “LOL!! Have a fun day and don’t bring any more animals home,” I did drive him to school.

As we sat in the drop-off line at Sugar Grove Elementary School waiting for the doors to open and the cars to full forward, Drew excitedly told me that one of his third-grade buddies and he are planning on making a scavenger hunt for their friend.

Drew: “Me and Grady are making a scavenger hunt for Jackson, but we need some time away from him to do it.”

Auntie Me: “Well that’s a nice thing to do Drew — is it for his birthday? Where are you setting up the scavenger hunt?” (I was recalling the many scavenger-hunts my mother-in-law, Carmen, set up for her granddaughters, and the epic birthday scavenger hunts with detective-like clues Dr. Steve a.k.a. the husband set up for the same three daughters in Southwest Park, along the White River, Brown County, or our backyard.)

Drew: “No, it’s not for his birthday — we just want to.”

When I repeated the question, “Where are you setting up the scavenger hunt — in your yard?” Drew just cocked his head and looked at me befuddled for a moment, then answered, “Oh, it’s on our computer.”

Drew continued to explain in a language that even Auntie Janet could understand.

His friend Jackson set up the game so the three boys can play online with each other when they’re at home.

With his half-grin, Drew explained, “Jackson’s the controller and set up the game so he can punch me and Grady, but we can’t punch him back.”

I laughed, then immediately remembered I also played this game when I was his age — I would punch my brother Kevin then quickly walk into the kitchen and start helping Mom, so he couldn’t punch me back.

As we approached the first set of Sugar Grove doors, Drew told me, “Stop here and I can jump out.” I did just that but didn’t even have time to hug him goodbye and wish him a great day of school.

However, I did have time to roll down my window and sing, “I love you, I love you, I love you, Drew,” as he smirked in embarrassment. He tucked his head down trying to act like I was some other fellow-student’s weird aunt and with an Olympic-record pace, fast-walked into the safety of Sugar Grove.

I miss those car talks.