I spend a lot of time in the car, driving. In fact, the majority of today was spent driving, as I ran errands for my kids, for my husband, for my mother, for my uncle, and even for my dog. Someone always needs something which his or her daytime job or school doesn’t allow time for. And dogs can’t drive, so.
Mostly, I don’t mind. I’ve always enjoyed driving (if not running errands), and I rarely pass up the chance to hop in the car and run to the store. I admit to often heading to the grocery store in the next town just to make the drive last a little longer. I know where every 7-11 is. I know which gas stations are the cheapest. I know where the cops like to hide out on the beltway at 2 a.m. (And I am pretty good at avoiding them.) I don’t get a lot of alone time. Driving gives me the chance to just be in the moment for a little while.
I spent a lot of time as a kid driving around with my dad. For several years he drove trucks all over the upper East Coast, delivering just about everything you can think of to various stores and construction sites. Dad wasn’t big on conversation, but in those hours we spent alone together in his truck we managed to bond. Occasionally, we talked about his childhood or his hopes and desires for the future. Sometimes I even told him about mine. I helped him load and unload the truck, back out of tight spaces, and I kept him awake during those long, monotonous drives. But mostly we just sat beside each other and observed the world around us, together. I enjoyed it so much that I toyed with the idea of driving a truck myself, until this little car swerved in front of us one day and we nearly ran him over. That’s when I decided that truck driving was not the life for me. Not because I was scared of tractor-trailers in so much as I was scared of how recklessly people drive around them.
I have many fond memories of driving in cars with people I love. The first time I went with my husband on a road trip we drove for nearly two straight days to a music festival. We listened to music and books on tape. I wrote while he listened to NPR (boring!). We talked a lot. And then we ended up lost in the middle of Columbus, Ohio at 4 a.m., after making a wrong turn somewhere.
Our first car was a blue 1983 Honda Accord with an engine so loud you had to yell just to be heard over its roar. The radio was broken so we made do with a boom box on the back seat. Rancid, Operation Ivy, Bjork, Neil Young. Some of our best dates were driving around in the mountains, in that Honda, looking for places to hike or make out.
Driving around in cars seems to suit every stage of my life. When our daughter was born she had a seriously hard time sleeping. I soon found myself at my wits end with my ever-screaming baby girl who never slept. Then I realized that though she hated being in the car, if you got her in right before nap time she would actually fall asleep for an hour. So, every afternoon for months, I strapped her into the car seat, turned on music and cruised up and down the back roads of Annapolis.
The thing about driving is that it gives you lots of time to think. I problem solve in the car. I sing. I write in my mind. I pray. Or at least I used to pray. God and me are taking a little breather right now. We haven’t decided on a divorce just yet, but we both needed a little space. Well, he has the whole universe to roam around in. It was actually me that needed a little distance. But, he’s patient. God does a lot of waiting.
Despite what I love about driving, though, I don’t feel like I’m actually getting anywhere. I’m never without things to do; I’m never bored. There are dishes to clean, meals to cook, clothes to wash, fold, put away, and wash again. There are boo-boos to kiss and diapers to change. There’s a toddler to nurse, educate, play with, and get to sleep 10 times in a row. (He takes after his sister like that.) There’s homework, class projects, and book fairs. And…I drive around running errands.
So I have a full life. My four wonderful kids, ages 2-14, keep me perpetually busy. But, as any mother eventually finds out–my kids aren’t me. They are their own human beings with their own journey, and nothing spotlights that reality quite like having a teenager in the house. One day, all of my kids will be out on their own and I will sit and look at their pictures hanging on the fridge and realize that the only thing as bad as being a terrible mother to your children is losing your identity to them completely.
I just hope that at the end of my life, all of this driving leads me somewhere. I hope to see something. Become something. Achieve something, just for myself. Before it’s too late.