Take a left here Mama! (but we need to go right)
I want to go down Three Chopt Rd! (that’s nowhere near the store)
Let’s find out where Short Pump Rd goes! (his nickname for Pump Rd)
Sometimes I indulge him, but most of the time I remind him how much longer it would take to get where we are going. This is the kid who would race a baby across a parking lot and celebrate winning. I figure the speedy way is always going to be his favorite. But he never accepts my explanation with joy.
Finally, I ask: Why do you always want to take the long way?
E: I like being with you, Mama. It’s relaxing being in the car with you.
Once the welling of tears and swelling of my heart stopped, I think about our car rides. How we talk about our days and roll down our windows while singing off-key to the radio (well, just me — that kid has a beautiful voice). How I’ve begun introduced him to my favorite pop songs of the 80s and 90s and my parents’ favorite pop songs of the 60s and 70s. How much laughter we have and how many tears I’ve dried while steering one-handed.
And I wonder how I could have mistaken getting home for getting a few more minutes of Jack and Diane. I remember driving around my hometown and just following roads to their end because I never had. I knew which streets had crazy bumps and which ones had pretty trees and which ones were the best for feeling like you were the only one in the world.
I remember even younger than that singing the Star Spangled Banner to myself in the back of my parents’ car. Seeing my first harvest moon from my window. Leaning my head against the cool glass and watching the world — waving to strangers and making faces with my sister and getting truckers to honk their horns.
So if you see a car driving in circles in your neighborhood, know that we’re just enjoying each other’s company for a little bit longer. Maybe our song hasn’t quite ended yet. Or a road name caught our eye. Or we are debating whether the sky would be better off purple. Or maybe we are both quietly wondering whether life is these moments in the car or begins when we arrive at our destination.