Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the back roads.

When I was a kid, I didn't really do much. Especially before my brother was born and it wasn't until he was much older that I would be any different. Very few kids were as low energy as I was at that age. My favorite "activities" were watching TV, specifically Nickelodeon and these two Barney VHS tapes. This one Barney VHS in particular. It was the Christmas one where Barney and an interestingly diverse group of kids that he kidnaps from a suburban neighborhood go up to the north pole to dance and sing with this sparkly snowman and meet Santa Claus at his workshop. It ends with Santa giving the kids the gifts that they always wanted and flying through the air wishing everyone a goodnight. I don't completely understand why this movie was so interesting to me. I didn't even watch it at Christmas time, so it's not like I was being festive. But I liked it, so whatever. I had those tapes until I was about 13 and watched them almost everyday until I was 10. When I wasn't poisoning my mind with obnoxious dancing purple dinosaurs, I would watch people and listen, think about what I saw or didn't see, lay about outside, pee outside (a habit that I have been unable to kick), or talk to myself. That list actually sounds like a pretty average day for me, even now. I was my favorite person to talk to for the first 10 or so years of my life just because it was easy. The only other person I would talk to without being smacked with a wave of anxiety was my mom. Most of the time though, I would be by myself and my mom would be nearby. We were together, but alone. It was perfect for me, I got the security of knowing my mom was there and the comfort of solitude. 

There was the occasional summer day, that either my mom or I would get bored of our usual quiet existence and would want to do something. Usually, my mom would come up to me as I sat doing nothing as per usual, and say "Hey, let's go for a ride." Silently, I would get up from whatever I was doing and follow her out of the house. We would get into the car, where she would turn on 93Q, "the number 1 hit music station", and something that we had listened to a thousand times would pop on. I would always hope that it was this song about jumping that I really liked. Later on I would discover that song was actually "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind, a song about suicide that is still a favorite of mine. Whatever the song was my mom and I would sing along right from the time we left our driveway to the time we pulled back in. We would always take the back roads, which made it interesting for me because I always liked to know how to get places in my head. I had already memorized the few main streets in our small town and where they lead. 

My hand out the window, I would either try and hold on to the top of the car like I had seen my dad do so many times, or I would move my hand through the air that passed by in the motion of the "worm" dance. As we passed what seemed to be an endless string of corn fields, I would realize something. For the first and usually only time for the entire ride, I would turn to my mom and say "Mom, where are we going?"

The last few times I have been home from college, I have thought about these rides. I guess there is something nostalgic about having your mom drive you everywhere. One time in particular, we were on the back roads outside of this nearby city heading toward my mom's friend's house. She was asking me about school and what I wanted to do for the upcoming summer. I told her I was going to be doing research at school. The inevitable question in these conversations for all parents, including my mom, is "So, what do you want to do? What does this mean for your career? Where are you going?" I told her that I was thinking about urban planning, because I was at the time. I would also confess that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. 

I would stare at my mom with intense wonder, waiting for the answer to where exactly we were going. Stoically, she would stare ahead out into the road. Then she would look at me and let one of her hands drop from the steering wheel and relax her body and say, "Nowhere.We are just driving. Does it matter?" I would consider this for a few minutes and eventually accept our lack of destination. Then we would return to our seemingly natural state of joint solitude. We were together, but alone. 

I can see the worry swell up in mom's eyes when I say things like I have no idea what I am going to be doing and that I want take time to find myself. All of the usual aspirations of a 20 something. But now whenever she asks, I look at her and say to myself "Nowhere. We are just driving. Does it matter?" And when I am driving the back roads on my way to an unknown destination, my mom and I will be together, but alone. 

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