In June of my 16th year I got my driver’s license. I couldn’t wait. We lived kind of far out in the country, and it was a pain to get rides to get together with my friends, who lived near town and all the action. I wanted to drive; I needed to drive. And I loved it.
The next few years were spent putting thousands of miles on our car driving back and forth from home to school to the mall to the parties to the nearest city, where we invariably got lost, because along with my driver’s license I had a terrible sense of direction and never paid attention to road names or signs.
When I graduated from high school my friend and I would drive into the wee morning hours, picking a back road and driving it for a while, then another, then another. We listened to music and talked and solved all of the world’s problems and none of our own.
I moved out west; driving across the country and back was always an adventure. Once our van was burglarized and I lost all the clothes I had packed for college. Once my friend and I got stopped in New Mexico by a guy who told us we had a headlight out and guided us to an over-priced garage, surely a scam. Once I cried because I ate too many Combos and king-sized Kit Kat bars on our road trip and just wanted a steak. Once my kid brother and I stopped at a motel in Terre Haute, Indiana at one in the morning, the only one with vacancy, only to find a dirty towel on the bathroom door and bugs in the bed. We got our money back and drove the rest of the way home. We pulled into our parents’ driveway at 9 am, sleep-deprived zombies.
My dad loves to drive too. As a kid he drove us everywhere, and not always on the roads. We would pile into our red station wagon and drive it up and down steep wooded hillsides certainly not meant to be traversed by such an ordinary vehicle. We’d drive out to towns we’d never heard of, always using the back way. We crisscrossed our little corner of the state over and over, radio blaring James Taylor and Kansas and America. We knew all the words.
My grandmother, in her 80s, loves to drive. She owned a house in Florida that she and her sister and mother would drive to each February, a two-day drive. Now the house and her loved ones are gone, and she still drives every day, shopping and returning items and going to the movies and eating at chain restaurants in towns 25 miles away.
Today my children and I drove across the state so they could meet their grandparents for vacation. I looked forward to the drive. I loved the time spent in the car with my kids, even though we had to play the quiet game twice. I drove home singing all the songs I know on the radio, which were a lot. Each of them marked memories in my life, many of them spent behind the wheel, driving and driving and driving.