I was driving along the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road when I noticed a police car parked just below the rise of a hill. It was an obvious speed trap. After I had driven out of sight I reached down to flash my lights at an oncoming driver. This is what I have always done. The unspoken law of us, the drivers, versus them, the police, seems to require it.

But then I heard my baby daughter in the backseat talking to herself. She is 25 months now, more a toddler than a baby, but already I have come to realize she will always be my baby girl. Whereas with my boy I am an able-bodied disciplinarian, with my daughter I am horribly inept.

I glanced in the rearview mirror and watched as she pointed out the window and labeled the world. Tree, cloud, Daddy’s ear.

I smiled but then, after returning my eyes to the road, I grew angry. The motorist approaching in the opposite lane was obviously speeding. This stranger, who moments before had been on my team, was now the enemy. I did not flash my lights. As I continued driving, I assumed the moment would soon vanish from my consciousness, a brief decision change and nothing more. But then it hit me. I would never again flash my headlights to warn another motorist.

When I became a father I understood, at least intuitively, that changes were coming. So many of these have arrived with all the aggressiveness and urgency of the delivery room. There were two of us, then three, and now four. But then there are these other changes, like wanting everyone to drive slower, that arrive quiet as a whisper. In a way they feel even more forceful, as if my entire DNA has been altered.

A few weeks ago, while tying my son’s shoes, folded over the top of him while he sat in my lap, I paused in between scoldings that he stop squirming, thrust my nose into his hair, and inhaled deeply. His little boy scent was so powerful I had to choke back my tears. I have not been able to think about tying shoelaces, my own even, the same since.

I have come to cherish these moments. Not flashing my lights at motorists, elevating shoelace tying to a higher plane; neither may seem like much with regard to the journey of my life. And yet, they are also everything.


Gazette contributor Bill Eville lives in West Tisbury.