My freshly earned driving permit was burning a hole in my pocket. “I don’t care where it is…I’ll take you anywhere,” I pleaded with my mom. When you’re 15, a Sunday can seem as long as, well, a month of Sundays. And not to use my state issued permission to drive (with another qualified licensed driver) seemed unthinkable. “We could go see…” “Yes,” I interrupted. “Grandma,” she finished.
The roads to my grandma’s house were long, straight, and for the most part, untraveled. I got in the driver’s side of our light blue Chevy Malibu station wagon. My mom got in the passenger seat. I put on my seat belt. Adjusted the mirrors. Started the engine. Turned off the radio. Looked in every direction. Put on my blinker, even though there was obviously no one behind us in the driveway, and proceeded with caution onto the road. The football coach who taught us Driver’s Ed was fresh in my mind.
Even with the windows closed, I felt the breeze in my mind. Wide open. Such freedom. I had experienced it on my bicycle, but this was fresh, exciting, this new travel — it was indeed Malibu!
My Uncle Ron was also visiting my grandma that Sunday. He watched me pull in the driveway. He slipped the toothpick from his mouth. He said things slowly, like my grandpa. “What kind of mileage do you get?” he asked me. Not only did I not know “what kind of mileage” I got, I didn’t even know what it was, or if in fact I was actually getting it. I shrugged my shoulders. “You don’t know. You have to know,” he said. I looked at my mother. She raised her eyebrows as if to wish me luck, and went into the house. I looked at my uncle. He led me inside to the kitchen table, where all things were learned and/or decided. He took a scratch pad and a pencil from the rolltop desk and proceeded to do the most math I had ever witnessed on a Sunday.
I stared at him, which he may have mistook for attention. But it was really more amazement. This was our first conversation in 15 years. I think he actually cared about me. Sure it was all disguised in a car metaphor, but I smiled and nodded. I stashed his full proof formula inside my pocket.
Freedom isn’t always measured in distance. Sometimes it takes you to the familiar, in a way you’ve never been before.
Today’s journey is beginning. I look in the morning mirror, and give myself permission.