Commutes

Apr 18

Image by epSos.de

My mother held me in the passenger seat of a green Chevy Citation as my dad drove from the hospital to the yellow Connecticut colonial where I would roller skate in the basement and dress as Strawberry Shortcake for Halloween, my breath hot under the plastic mask. Where I would wear a brown plaid Catholic school jumper and L.L. Bean backpack and fight for a seat in the last row of the bus.

I took many trips from that house – to basketball practice three times a week, up the hill on my Big Wheel, over the handlebars of my bike into a forsythia bush. To Cleveland every Thanksgiving, my brothers and I kicking for legroom in the back of the Buick. Crisscrossing the country by train, waiting for cattle to be cleared from the track in Montana, wondering if Texas would ever end. Modern-day Mark Twains, we steamed down the Mississippi aboard a paddlewheeler.

I carpooled to high school, studying my algebra notes in the back of a white Jeep Cherokee as it sped up 91. I rode shotgun in my friends’ hand-me-down sedans, laughter and invincibility harmonizing with R.E.M. and Ace of Bass. I piled my clothes and my Radio Shack computer into the back of the Jeep – now dented after I spun out coming home from my boyfriend’s – and headed south on 91. I sat on a wooden fence in front of my dorm and watched my parents pull away.

I walked to art history with a boy. We walked to Wawa’s for midnight subs. We flew to Paris. He stayed in Connecticut while I moved to the city, taking the 1/9 uptown to teach third grade, then traded in Metro North for the Mass Pike, driving my own green Chevy away from him to teach high school near Boston. We got married and packed our Ikea bookcases into an orange Allied Van and headed for the Midwest where he’d teach and I’d write.

We raced to the hospital in the dark past tired cornfields, me puffing through contractions, a carseat rattling around the trunk. We had a baby boy. And another one two springs later. Then we drove to the hospital again, the low January sun reflecting off the snow. The doctors told me to lie still, to wait for our baby girl to arrive. She came a few weeks later.

I haven’t stopped moving since.