Once upon a time in a car

I used to love to drive. I didn’t get my license until I was eighteen (in Massachusetts I could have had a license at sixteen), partly because I could walk or take a bus most of the places I wanted to go, and partly because the only car I could learn on was a bear to drive.

That car was mine once I learned to drive it. It had belonged to my parents, and I kept it through college, right up until the floor rusted out and the hole could no longer be hidden by a cookie sheet stashed under the floor mat. My next car was little and silver and had the appealing quality of almost stalling out if I needed to accelerate quickly. That one lasted until my son was born–the actual day he was born–when we discovered the clicking noise I kept hearing was a bad bad thing. These days, I drive a classy thirteen-year-old silver car with 222,000 miles on it, and most days I thank it for continuing to run.

Cars don’t actually interest me very much, other than as a means to an end. I envy people who live in places where they don’t need to drive. The highway that we travel on to get most anywhere is not very bike friendly, particularly if you have kids in tow. There are no bus routes near us. Definitely no trains. Hiking takes me lots of cool places, but none are where I buy groceries, or go to homeschool classes, or any of the other locations I must travel to each week.

I no longer love to drive, but once upon a time I did. I loved being able to go anywhere, by myself. I loved listening to music in the car. All my music came from the radio, for those first cars I drove had functional radios and broken tape decks, and I spent a lot of time switching channels. I’d drive, and sing, and think, and wander, and I didn’t worry about things like gas, and environmental destruction, and the miles I was adding.

I just drove.

It was the most private place I had. Sometimes I drove and cried. Occasionally I drove and yelled, though I restricted that to late nights far away from houses. I told myself stories too, carried them forward from one trip to the next, like leaving a book open on my bedside table. I traveled through space on my own little asteroid.

I still listen to music much too loudly while I drive, and I sing along more often then my children would like. The pleasure is more or less gone though. When it’s warm, I watch for turtles to ferry across the road. When it’s cold, I worry about ice. The romance of cars has vanished completely for me.

Still, there are moments, when I hear the right song at the right volume, that I can feel myself on those roads in the dark again, wandering, thinking, dreaming. My own private bit of time travel, in my clunky old time machine.

2 Comments

  1. I love this piece and can totally relate. Thank you for sharing this gift with me. It was great to run into you today. Love to John and your whole family, Vanessa

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