A car just like hers

I knew somehow, even before the news footage confirmed my prediction, that the little boy’s toy car would look exactly like the one we have here at home. Primary color plastic of red body, blue wheels and handle for pushing, goldenrod yellow hood. I imagined little Carlitos Nava riding in that same car. And he did until Monday afternoon when the violence of Oakland streets took his life.

I took M to 64th Ave and International this afternoon. We each carried a rosary. M insisted on seeing Carlitos’ photo so one of the men at the makeshift altarcito moved a giant teddy bear aside. In the photo, Carlitos is not smiling but his deep brown eyes peer out in wonderment. M’s chatter subsided. I placed my hands on her little shoulders and tried to think of a prayer. Instead I read the handwritten flyers announcing a weekend fundraiser for his family and his memorial service.

On the drive home, I watched my daughter through the rearview mirror. I have been hard on her lately. She is going to sleep very late this week: 11pm Monday, midnight last night. I speak to her as if she were an older child. My expectations for her behavior rival those I had for my high school students when I was an administrator. She is my almost-three-year-old but she is still my baby. I think about Carlitos’ mother and how she can’t ponder whether she is doing right by/for her child.

“Mommy, are you crying?”


“Why are you sad?”

“I’m sad for the baby.”

“Did they hurt your feelings?”

“No. But they hurt his mommy and his daddy. It’s not right.”

“No, it’s not right.”

What is right in these situations? I can hop back in my hybrid, back to the weeknight farmer’s market, back to my suburban neighborhood, where every evening, after dinner, it is safe to take my daughter around the block in her toy car. I have no answers, only emotions.

NOTE: There will be a carwash both Saturday and Sunday at the market at 64th and International to help raise funds for the Nava family. Viewing will be Monday, August 15th, 6 to 9pm, Clarence Cooper Mortuary, Fruitvale Ave, Oakland.

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