When we used to drive Elena to pre-school, there were multiple ways to go. They were all pretty much the same time and distance so it didn't really matter much which way we chose. After a while of driving this way or that, I used to ask Elena which way she wanted. Most of the time she would ask me to turn down the street with the pink house.
As we approached the street we would invariably get caught at the traffic light on the corner. She would never say "take a left turn at the light" she would say "take a left turn onto that street with the pink house." As we pulled up to the light she would point at the pink house and say "there."
Life was so simple. You drive 'til you come to the street with the pink house and then you turn left. Then summer comes and you take a well deserved break from school. Then autumn approaches and school starts up again. Your life will soon be the way it's always been. So you go out to the car in the morning and head off towards Mayfield and Lee and you pull up to a familiar intersection and the voice in the back seat says "take a left turn onto that street with the pink house." She points as she always has and says "there" but you look left and there's no more pink house.
Over the summer, someone had painted it white. This corner doesn't look much different than other corners any more. The light changes and people behind you beep you back into the present moment. Maybe you turn down the street, maybe you don't. In either case it's not the same.
The next time we pulled up to that intersection on the way to pre-school, Elena realized that she would have to explain things differently to me if I were to have any chance of getting things right. I slowed down for the stop light and Elena said slowly and deliberately as if I might not understand her if she spoke at full speed, "Daddy, take a left turn onto that street with the house that used to be pink."
I didn't understand then the lessons she was leaving me for later- for that time when I would be the guy who used to drive Elena to school. Then I was just a happy dad playing games with his daughter on their way to school.
I smiled and turned. From then on the decision was the same as before. We would either go straight or turn left at that intersection. She sometimes still called it the pink house even though it was now white and sometimes, when it seemed that I needed more information, she called it the house that used to be pink.