The roads we’ve driven

(Originally posted June 2, 2005)

The roads we’ve driven

All the stories we could tell
If it all blows up and goes to hell
I wish that we could sit upon the bed in some hotel
And listen to the stories we could tell
-Jimmy Buffet

He glanced at the sleeping child in the passenger seat. The soft orange light from the dashboard threw shadows on her face. She had a small stuffed bear cuddled in her arms. What had she said it’s name was…? Ah. Basha. Basha the Bear. She had just gotten it for her… fourth? fifth? birthday.

It was late, or early, depending on how you looked at it, but they were almost home. His home, his wife’s home, and her father’s home. Now to also be her home. It wasn’t much to look at on the outside; old Florida cracker with a tin roof, a wide front porch, and a hand pump outside the back door. It was a mirror of most of the other run-down houses in the area. But it was full of love and laughter and healing, slow evenings drinking warm beer and picking guitar, weekends spent petting the cat and fishing from the small dock down the gravel road.

He woke her up when he saw the alligator who had crawled into the middle of the road, highlighted by the headlights . She was groggy, and it took him a few minutes to explain that they weren’t home yet.

“Is that a mons-tah in the woad?” she asked in her little-girl voice. She clutched at his hand, and he reassured her that they had nothing to fear as long as they stayed in the car. He smiled as she alternately tried to see it over the dashboard and hide from it. They watched it lumber across the road, and she was asleep before he even started the car back up. She slept through arriving at the house, slept through her father carrying her inside while his friend carried the two pillowcases full of clothes, slept through a bed being made for her behind the bookshelves in the corner of her father’s room.

#

When she was about nine or so, he and her father drove across the country with her. They were going to Arizona, and then on for a brief stop in California. He would think later that there must have been more than one tape in the blue VW van, but the only one he remembered was the Kris Kristofferson.

They would wake up in the morning and drive all day, finding a cheap dive to stay in overnight. A few times, they were given the worst rooms at the motels. Two men? With long hair? In a Volkswagon van? Traveling with a little girl? He could hear the whispers as they would leave the motel office. Finally it got to the point where only one of them would go in and get the room. The other one would wait in the car with the girl. One room was particularly memorable in that the yellow carpet – at least, they hoped it was supposed to be yellow – was sopping wet and smelled like dead animals.

“This would make a great short story,” he would say to his friend.

#

When she was about eleven, he came up from Key West to stay with her while her parents went away for a long weekend. Of course, that weekend decided to have a hurricane; the biggest that had hit Florida in years. He packed the girl up and he drove her to his brothers house, a tall rambling wonder full of kids and books and people who would make her feel like family while he drove back down to Key West to get his sweetie. She wouldn’t leave, because they wouldn’t let her take their cat on the bus. He drove almost the whole way in the breakdown lane, because traffic was supposed to only be going one way—away from the hurricane. That road trip showed her about love, responsibility, and bravery, for all that she was only on the first leg of the journey.

#

They were driving out to her father’s farm, one day when she was about sixteen. She was whining, in that way that only teenage girls can do, about how her father totally freaked out on teaching her how to drive; how he was just so freaky when it came to corners because she could never remember if you had to put the clutch in when you wanted to put the brakes on, and how just so unfair it was that he’d decided he wasn’t the right one to teach her how to drive after that first time.

He pulled over to the side of the road and got out.

“You drive,” he said. How bad could it be, on a country road in the middle of nowhere? “Just keep it between the lines,” was his advice. “Keep it between the ditches.”

She did fine. Just fine. He was a good teacher.

#

When she was nineteen, they drove to New Orleans to meet up with her dad and some friends from Key West. She was nervous about driving with him. What if she drove too fast? What if he thought she was a crazy driver? What if…?

“I like driving with you,” he said at one point. “You get us along at a pretty good clip; we’re making great time.”

And they sang along with the radio the whole time. It was a great drive.

#

Is that a metaphor for life? It’s a great drive.

Posted by Lorena on 06/02 at 05:36 AM in Personal, Souvenirs

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