A Good Drive
As I kid, I remember spending hours of time driving around the rural Midwest in the family truck. Sometimes it was just me and dad; other times it was the whole family sitting buckleless in the front seat of the pickup. Some of the trip we would talk—but never sing (dad wasn’t much of a songster)—the rest of the trip we would silently “look for hawks.” Dad promised a quarter for any hawk we spotted before he did. Literally, hours of time of my childhood life was spent scouring electric poles, fields, fences and sky for hawks from the side window of the family truck.
On weekdays and weekends both, a drive would take us to a small town estate auction or a rural farm sale in search of merchandise for our mom-and-pop antique business. One day a week, the family piled in the car for the stereotypical Sunday drive. We never went to church, but always spent Sunday together viewing a new curb system in an all-but-dying small town, or driving down dusty back roads to view an old stone church in the middle of nowhere, or driving a picnic lunch to a shelter. Part of every trip we talked; part of every trip we looked for the birds worth a quarter.
As I child, being in the truck was just something I did. I learned to “be ready in ten minutes” when dad called to me from the shop upstairs. I learned that sometimes dad liked to talk, but other times he needed silence. I never questioned either of these. I learned to drive in the truck. I learned how to pack—and unpack—a load of furniture, how to listen and watch nature, and how to appreciate small towns and their history. I never told my dad what I learned, but I think he knew. He taught me my most important belief: the value of a good drive.
My life is so maddening now. I keep a tightly-packed schedule, teach at a large suburban school, and find myself caught up in the craziness of, well, everything. My only true salvation is time in my car not really going anywhere, just driving. Sometimes a funky female alto sings with me from the radio; sometimes it my dad’s hawk-spotting silence. Either way, I lose my troubles on the road.
Recently, I found myself 20 miles away from dad’s gravesite before I realized I was fully engaged in a drive. A tear in one eye and a smile in the other, I spotted a hawk on a fence post. Hard to believe it’s been ten years since dad and I took a drive together. I’d say I’m none the richer as I was never paid a single quarter for any of my sightings, but it was never really about the money–or the birds–but about the solace of believing in a good drive.
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