It’s amazing to me how much more I appreciate road time spent not for the purpose of getting to a doctor’s visit or to dialysis or to visit Dad at Southwind. Driving for myself, even just driving to Lake Charles or to Houston, provides me with the sheer pleasure of a road trip, no matter how brief.
Luckily, I love to drive- I always have. And when I say “always,”I mean just that. Some of my earliest memories revolve around cars. I remember the first car my parents had-and standing up in the back (in that Plymouth coupe there wasn’t a real back seat for adults, but a little kid could stand there and my head was close to the sloping roof. ) Or I could sit with the window open and throw things out, such as my pacifier. That always precipitated a visit to the local grocery store to replace it. Yes, I remember those moments, the sensation of the wind on my hand or my head touching the car lining of the sloped roof.
Or the memory of riding in a convertible at the age of 6, perched on the back of the car with my feet dangling into the back seat, my beautiful hooped skirt spread around me as I waved to the crowds at the Crowley Rice Festival as a little princess from Egan Elementary. Frankly, the experience of riding in the convertible was more exciting to me than being in the little queen contest. I attribute later ownership of a Mazda Miata and now a Mini Cooper convertible directly to this opportunity–and to watching lots of “Route 66” episodes on television.
Maybe my love of driving goes back even earlier, though. When I was born in Beaumont, Texas, my parents lived on Detroit Street, and that clearly influenced the birth announcement they wrote announcing the new 1951 model, with squealing lungs.
Here in Egan, too, I am reminded of when and where I learned to drive: at the age of 8 or 9, on the road by the now-defunct baseball field. I learned on a 1955 Chevy Bel Air automatic, the very first attempt marked by flooding the engine and having to walk home with Dad. (Teaching me was not sheer indulgence, but a practical measure for Dad- if Mother had a panic attack, someone had to be able to drive home.) Shortly after this, I learned to drive the 1956 Chevy truck at Grandad’s farm. It was a stick shift with the stick shift on the wheel; to this day my right hand can go through the shifting motions for that.
Driving was this tied at an early age to responsibility, but also to sheer pleasure.
Now, I get into the car, plug in my iPod, and select appropriate road music . For my trip to Houston last week, I selected Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, the Dixie Chicks, Kinky Friedman, Nanci Griffith,Guy Clark and Steve Earle. I cranked up the sound and sang along, song after song, through songs of sadness and tears and anger and sheer love of beauty and love.
Driving soothes me, isolates me to the moment, allows me to process emotions and events through the songs that shuffle as I drive. Road trip driving is a very Zen experience. Sometimes I put the roof down so that the wind and sun pull me into the world. Sometimes I keep the roof up, enclosing me and cocooning me with music and warmth.
Yesterday I drove to Lake Charles to the new Adele cd, thrilling to her voice and song-writing abilities. I was reminded of romance and lost love–and survival.
For brief spells I am afforded the space and time to drive out frustrations or anger or confusion or hurt or loss. Or just to drive for the love of it, the freedom.
Always, though, the road that goes on forever, that goes out and away, also leads back home, and I turn the engine off, step out of the car and lock it, refreshed in spirit if tired in body. Yesterday I drove for escape to my life in Lake Charles. Tomorrow I will drive to the very person who gave me the gift of driving.