I know, I know: if I were a better person, driving would probably come up less often in my writing, the way of the world currently being $4.19 gas and an environmental crisis and all.
The reality is, we actually don’t do that much driving. We live south of Interstate 20, and out of loyalty to the ‘hood, stubbornness and just plain perversity, I try to stay on the wrong side of those tracks as often as I can.
When I set up the Girleens’ swimming lessons for the summer, though, I was asleep at the switch, and now I’m spending a couple a days a week for the month of July shuttling them back and forth to the swimming pool.
But I suspect that even if this were not the case, the act of driving would take up more space in my writing than it probably should, simply because driving becomes a meditative act when one spends much of their waking time with small children: yes, the small children are also right there with you, strapped into their seats like tiny paratroopers, but they’re just as lulled as the next person by tires on asphalt, the blur of view beyond the window, and the dreamy life-is-a-beautiful-art-movie sensation caused by being in a car with the radio on.
In the car, I seem to have time to think. Apparently Elder Girleen does to, for the car is where, the other afternoon, she asked me the following:
Mommy, why is Prince Eric always unconscious in the Little Mermaid?
In the car, we pass the HAND CAR WASH, a cinderblock building painted a shout of orange so brilliant, so orange, it practically breaks eardrums, where an itinerant BBQ cook has set up a rickety, surely-not-condoned-by-the-health-department smoker; we wait out the light, we turn, the dangerous, alluring scent of well-cooked ribs pervades the car.
I’m hungry, the girleens chorus.
In the car, we listen to Let It Be as we inch through rush hour traffic, because music hath charms that soothes the savage beast, also six-year-olds and three-year-olds who’ve been swimming for hours on July afternoons who have just been chauffeured past the mouth-watering aroma of BBQ ribs a mother would never dream of letting them eat.
Oh, the summer I was sixteen, when the ashy, head-spinning taste of my first filched cigarettes filled my mouth and time was immaterial, the summer I was sixteen, when we debated life’s big questions, one of which was this:
I was a girl for Mick, through and through. The Beatles? Too hippy-dippy; they didn’t have that necessary edge. Sentimental, I thought, sappy … and then I lit another cigarette and set the record player needle into the groove of my current fave Patti Smith album, Easter.
And now here I am, forty-three, and the Rolling Stones mean naught to the girleens, though Wild Horses is a song that’s gotten their approval. The Beatles are the band we listen to.
And all those songs I thought so sentimental 25 years ago? What a beautiful soundtrack they make as you travel through your life with kids in tow, your youth waving goodbye in the rear-view mirror.
That’s a really lovely little essay.
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