January 30, 2013

Life Is a Highway

"Mom!  Why can't you drive me to school?"

Because it's less than a mile to walk.

Because you'll get a little fresh air and exercise.

Because it's a beautiful, sunny morning.

Why do you want to be driven?

Sometimes I want to sit in the passenger seat.  Doesn't it seem easier?  No pack to carry; throw it in the back.  No looking both ways.  No cracks in the sidewalk to avoid.  Just lie back, put your feet up, play with the knobs on the radio.

The charm lasts longer than you might expect.  I could get used to this.  Someone else is in the driver's seat.  Where are we going?  As long as I don't have to decide.  Let me know when we get there.  Here's a couple of bucks to fill up the tank.  You do the rest.

Eventually, though, it wears a little.  I need a rest stop.  What do you mean we passed the last one for a hundred miles?  No, I wasn't paying attention.

Now I'm restless.  Why don't I drive?  You must be getting tired.  But we're hurtling down the highway at 75 miles per hour, and there's no place to pull over.

It was one thing when I was younger, and couldn't drive anyway.  There was no choice.  Sit in the back.  Look out the window.  The ballgame played on the radio for hundreds of miles.  It's how it was, and I didn't know any different.

Now, when I turn over the keys, it's something else.  I have choices, but I don't want to make them, so I make one and give the rest over to whoever happens to be sitting behind the wheel.

I could be the one in the driver's seat, but what if the car won't start?  What if the weather is bad?  What if there's traffic, and we get caught up in it and can't go anywhere?  What if I end up in a ditch?  What if I run out of gas before we get there?  I may have mapped the course, but that doesn't always keep me from getting lost.

There's somewhere I need to be, and there's no one to take the keys.  It's only me.  And maybe the car will start and there's plenty of gas and the weather's fine and the traffic is light.  The windows are down and the wind's in my hair and the radio's on and the volume's up and they're playing my favorite song.

The truth is, I don't know what I'll get when I take the keys and fasten my seat belt -- a straight shot or a detour or a dead end.  But I've got places to go.

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