Come to my house on a Friday morning, and you will hear squeals of delight and see a tiny toddler face beaming like it’s Christmas. The constant chorus of “truck truck truck!” will fill your ears, interspersed with a few ooooooh’s and wow’s. That’s because it’s garbage day, and garbage day means the garbage truck comes barreling down the street.
Every other week, a separate truck picks up the recycling, and since the trucks have to collect things on both sides of the street separately, that means four opportunities to see really cool trucks in action.
I don’t know exactly when the truck obsession began, or why it’s gotten so intense, but I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. My son loves trucks with every fiber of his being. He loves with a purity that is hard to comprehend from the outside, with a joy that is frankly catching. And that’s the thing I’ve noticed recently....
These days, when we hear the telltale squeak of those big truck breaks up the block and my kid turns to me with a light in his eyes to announce “Oh! The TRUCK!”, I feel my heart leap with excitement, too.
I’m a 32-year-old woman who has never had any interest in motor vehicles of any kind, who doesn’t even own a car. But I’m excited about watching the garbage truck. And it isn’t just the garbage truck…in direct opposition to everything I thought I knew about myself, I’m starting to love trucks in general.
I was raised, and still live, in Michigan. Since the days of Henry Ford, Michigan has had an awful lot to do with the automobile. Growing up, almost everyone I met had some kind of connection to the auto industry. Michiganders like their vehicles.
I always felt out of place in the culture of cars and trucks. I couldn’t really seem to figure out what people liked about them as a child, and as I got older and more aware of the world, I became pretty concerned about the use of fossil fuels. I even dragged my feet learning how to drive, putting off getting my license until I was 17. My parents essentially told me I had to.
Almost a decade ago, I got rid of the crappy car I’d had since high school and moved to Detroit, the motor city, without a motor. It felt freeing not to own a big chunk of metal anymore, and I was more than happy to get around using a combination of public transit, my bicycle, and good old fashioned walking.
When my baby started showing an interest in trucks, it reminded me that we really are totally separate, very different people. I shrugged my shoulders, careful not to discourage his budding interest just because I didn’t share it. (Secretly, I was over the moon when he started to get into dinosaurs. Now there was something we could enjoy together!)
I decided it was probably a good thing that my son had his own interests outside of his parents’ scope. He loved the garbage truck, yes, but not just the garbage truck. Everything from pickup trucks to fire trucks to delivery trucks all fascinated and thrilled him. He started amassing a collection of his own toy trucks, and then he began insisting on taking them to bed with him each night.
He dealt with the transition out of his crib to his big-kid bed by “driving himself to sleep” while cuddled up in a mountain of wooden and plastic trucks. When his second birthday rolled around, my wife and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would have to be truck themed.
At the party, a slightly older toddler sifted through the temporary tattoos, which were all of construction trucks. His mom came over to help him pick one out, and said, “Do you want the bulldozer or the front end loader?”
Suddenly, I felt embarrassed. I’d been trying to support my kid’s love of all things truck related, but I hadn’t even bothered to learn the names or functions of the various kinds. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to do that.
Personal interests are funny things. It’s easy, especially as adults, to view ourselves as static. We like what we like, right? I’m into art, and baking, and fantasy novels, and it’s easy to imagine that there isn’t room for all that much else.
Except, that’s not the way that interests, or human beings, actually work. We’re constantly changing, constantly shifting, constantly learning, whether we know it or not. When I was 15, I was really into boy bands, but in my 20s I preferred loud punk music. That doesn’t mean that one of those interests was fake or invalid. It’s just that I grew, I changed.
One of the things that changes us happens to be the people we share our lives with. I’ve picked up new ideas from friends and lovers. We trade favorite authors and geek out about movies. My older sister begged me to watch “Doctor Who” for years before I finally got into it. My wife finally watched “The Lord Of The Rings” with me about a year ago. Sometimes seeing someone you love get really into something becomes kind of infectious.
My son might only be two years old, but he’s still a person in my life. He’s still a person I love and try to empathize with.
So these days, I’m starting to learn the different names of trucks. I find myself craning my head toward construction sites to watch an excavator scoop up a big mound of dirt. “Oh,” I think to myself, “that is a really nice truck!” I’ve discovered a strange joy in the variety of shapes and colors of different kinds of trucks. I hum the theme song to “Mighty Machines” under my breath.
Believe it or not, when I was two years old, my favorite toy was a big, old, metal dump truck. It was bright yellow, and for some reason, I found it extremely comforting. I used to like to sit in the back of it, and I remember feeling angry when I finally “outgrew” it.
I had forgotten about that truck and moved on into a whole childhood filled with other things. But today, when I watch my son play with his dump truck, the memory suddenly feels fresh and perfect.
And when the garbage truck comes barreling down the street, I will stand at the window with my child. I will listen to the breaks and watch the mechanical arm reach down to grab the dumpsters. I’ll notice what a truly incredible feat of engineering such a machine actually is, and how important that it comes once a week.
When my toddler lets out an awe struck “Whoah…” I will join him.
“Isn’t that cool, buddy?” I’ll say. And I won’t be faking it. Not even a little bit.