Write In Between

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Driving a lesson home

In my dreams, I am the consummate driver. I like speed and I like power. Anyway, as the Lord would have it, I have rarely even owned a car that could pull it off. My first car--a '66 Mustang--came close in my mind. Then came the gas crisis, entry-level jobs and a series of "economical" vehicles. And then came the mini-van years, which I endured with pride in my brood as "Mom," but vehicle-loathing as driver. Still, I learned the value of cargo space, bringing companions on the journey, and the places one could go once the bags were packed. I still own a very ostentacious conversion van. Even with gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon, it still shouts: "ROAD TRIP!"

But I have an active driving imagination. When I was a kid, I followed the drag racing circuit, and the few women who broke into that sport. My husband's adolescence transformed him into a car tinkerer. His fascination with antique cars led to ownership of a series of 4 MGB's over the last 24 years--one currently sits offroad under a tarp in the driveway. So somewhere, somehow, we met in the middle ground in terms of auto-love.

For both of us, there's nothing like zipping along on a little adventure with full tank--with or without a road map. I once rented a Porsche Boxter, for the love of my motorhead-husband, back on our 20th anniversary. Lord, did he look sexy in that thing. My joy was surprizing him with it, and then escaping with him for the weekend in it--getting lost in the side streets of Boston, and then the Hamptons out on Long Island--with lots of stretches of open highway in between!

But, as I said, my car ownership has mostly been sensible cars that underwhelm my driving imaginations. A dear friend describes this inequity as "champagne taste--money for beer!"

These days, driving is one of my primary duties, given our family life and needs of teenagers in modern suburbia, where there is little to none public transportation. And so, I'm in the car almost daily. I am constantly dropping someone else off somewhere. Which is what I did today.

Today it was leaving my oldest son (the one who is leaving for college next month) off at the airport for a few days leave to visit his cousin in St. Louis. As I pulled away from Logan Airport, I felt a distant ache start to well up inside me. I could visualize the coming goodbye when we drop him off at college next month. This was a preliminary.

I was glad I was going home alone in the car. I needed to sort out the flood of feelings that were beginning to leak out of the corner of my eyes. My four-wheeled escape pod sat patiently on the parking garage roof, just waiting to take me away.

I was headed north on the famous Route 1, when, on impulse, I turned toward the shore in search of a beach--road trip! I wound up lost, exploring towns I've never driven through in the twelve years I've lived in Massachusetts. It was, indeed, driving therapy: No map, no agenda, no time limit. Just a need to breathe in salt air and exhale some of the stuff that's been bottling up.

My fingertips gripped the leather steering wheel in my Jetta, turbo purring as I floored it down the causeway to the beach, music soothing my soul from the CD player as the open sun-roof whipped in the ocean air. It was escapism at its finest.

I found a coffee shop, and fortified myself for a coffee break, and found a parking space that faced the water. And the tears came. And I had to just yield to them...grateful I had pulled over, shrouded in the quiet womb of my automobile. For, indeed, it was the womb breaking forth that I needed to reckon with... my first-born leaving for college soon.

Someday, somewhere, sometime, the mother-in-me knew there would be a season that I had to learn to let go in a deeper way. And yet, there is some resistant force in my heart today. So I gave myself permission to find a beach and to face the wind and the waves. And to explore the waves of memories, of joy and of tears, and of escapism... for honestly, there is no escaping the reality that change in our lives is as constant as the wind and the waves. And there is a flow to it that we must yield to.

I drank my coffee as I drank in the scenery. I used my cell phone to call my traveling husband long-distance. We talked about the feelings regarding this son who is soon to move on to the next phase of his life without us-- and he admitted the feelings are creeping up on him too. I told him about the beach I was on.

I hung up, and took one last look across the water. I heard a plane fly overhead and peered out of the sunroof, and somehow I knew, yes, this is the way its supposed to be. It really is God's plan for our children to grow up and seek their place in the world, and yes, it really is time for this one to do that.

I opted to take the coastal route north, letting myself take a few more detours on scenic side roads, knowing that, eventually, I'd find my way home.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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  • Hi Pat,

    Thanks for your kind comment on my article "How to Cope with the Identity Crisis of New Motherhood." I remember reading somewhere that children hurt when they come in and hurt when they leave. Both cause you to renegotiate life. I wish you all the best as you navigate this next step in this unique journey we call motherhood!


    By Blogger Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, at 8:55 PM  

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