I’ve noticed something these last few weeks. Despite the small amount of time I actually spend in my car I seem to do a great deal of living in it. Or maybe it’s more appropriately said that the majority of my life has taken place in my car. It dawned on me on my long drive back from visiting my sister. It’s a drive I’ve made hundreds of times, yet this time was the first time I’d made it alone in quite awhile.
Southwestern Minnesota is a flat, mostly barren land filled only with fields and the occasional homestead crowded by a buffer of trees; trees that serve as sentries against the wind and drifts of snow. This year it is especially drab; a brown wasteland that the snow couldn’t be bothered to cover. Instead, it stands naked awaiting springtime to cover it in its lushness. For any who didn’t grow up here it seems monotonous and of little interest, but for me it aches of vastness, of wide open spaces and room to breathe. It’s a kind of freedom. I remember making this drive heading off to college, terrified each time to leave home, only to make the drive back a few weeks later ecstatic to reach my destination and be home in my family’s arms. I remember making the drive as a young woman in love excited to see my family, but even more excited to head back to my new life. I remember making this drive as a tired mother, tired of Dora playing in the background, tired of stopping for crying jags, feeding time, potty breaks, or just stopping to stop, each way feeling like as much agony as the other. I remember it as the thing that first taught me about the fluidity of time- how time is concrete as well as perceived. How 3 hours heading in the direction of love and joy is a much quicker ride.
So I took a cue from my old college self, driving the same car, just a bit more beat up, myself a bit more beat up, and sang my heart out. Thank God for horrible 90’s mix CDs. When my voice hurt I did my best Jimmy Fallon lip-synch. And like always, it was freeing as I headed into that endless expanse. I felt alive. No responsibilities, just my own sense of time. No urgency.
But as I thought about this on the way back I realized that my car holds new life now. It holds the secrets to my children’s hearts. It holds talks of the deepest concerns and questions. Each day as we drive to and from school we talk. Some days it’s mundane, mind numbing “Guess What!” questions thrown at me by 6 year olds that don’t realize I’ve already lived 30 more years. Other days it’s deep. In just a one one-way trip we can discuss the essentials of borrowing money from the bank for a car loan, the importance of function vs. aesthetics/needs vs. wants when it comes to money management, what blind people’s eyes look like, losing your fingers to frostbite, to why God makes people without eyes, hands, etc. No lie. That was an actual drive to school- just 15 minutes.
Other things I’ve had to explain:
*whole foods vs. processed foods
*same sex marriages and how it relates to having kids (or rather “who decides to be the boy”)
*alcoholism and drunk driving
*whether Satan is alive or dead
*what God and Jesus look like
*adoption and foster care and why some parents can’t be parents
*strangers and the man at our local library (who placed his fingers in a young girl’s mouth while she stood there near her mother)
*why God makes fires and car accidents
I could go on and on. The answers never come terribly easily, but I pride myself on my honesty. Sometimes it’s “I don’t know, but here are some different ideas of what other people think…” It’s been hard to navigate, but the fact that they keep coming back to me with such difficult, honest questions warms my heart and lets me hope that the life questions of my 16 year olds will be as difficult, honest, and flow as freely as those of my girls now.
I will keep sharing with you the good ones as they happen, but I’d love to hear yours!