I think it’s safe to say that most of us went eagerly towards our 17th birthdays, nearly unable to contain the excitement of getting our driver’s licenses and our FREEDOM! That wasn’t exactly my experience. I lived in Bayonne when I turned 17. I failed my driver’s test the first time I took it and then didn’t want to take it again. There was little need for it in Bayonne; I could literally walk the length of the town in about an hour. We had fairly comprehensive public transportation via buses. Anywhere I was going out of town, I’d undoubtedly be going with someone else who could drive.
I ended up not getting my license till I was 22 years old. Still, the rush of freedom I felt when I got that car was exhilarating. If I wanted to go to the mall, I could get in my car and go. If I wanted to go visit my aunt, I could get in my car and go. If I wanted to go to the movies, shopping, a friend’s house, the park, or just go for a drive - there was my car, beckoning me.
I loved being about to just get in my car and go.
When Paul and I first got married and we moved away from compact Bayonne, the ability to get in my car and go became my saving grace. I’d married a man who worked too much, and I was alone a lot. I’d drive around and learn where things were. I’d decide to head back to Bayonne for a couple hours and hang out with my brother. I’d go get my nails done. There was nothing holding me back.
Except, you know, having to go to work most days. But even that, I had an hour commute back and forth, where I could roll my windows down, and blast Megadeth or No Doubt (depending on my mood and the weather) and scream along at the top of my lungs.
I drove an ’89 Dodge Shadow to begin with, and then graduated to a unbelievably amazingly gorgeous 2002 Volkswagon Cabrio. Then, not only were the windows down, so was the roof most days.
My first clue that this whole driving freedom thing was going south was when I tried to install Joey’s infant seat in the back of the Cabrio. It didn’t fit. It didn’t fit so much, that we ended up at the Saturn dealership about a week before my due date, leasing an emergency SUV.
I still see Cabrios around town from time to time and sigh wistfully in their direction.
So, first, I had to get rid of my very favorite car in the entire world. Shortly after Joey was born, the next impediment to my freedom presented itself. I had to take this kid with me, pretty much wherever I went.
This meant a few things. First, I couldn’t just grab my wallet and keys and head out. I needed a bag. The bag needed to be stuffed with diapers and wipes, and teething toys and a pacifier. I was nursing her, so, luckily, I didn’t need to make sure I had bottles and formula, but that’s something that lots of other moms have to deal with. And it sucks, keeping that diaper bag stocked.
Next, I had to tone down my music. Blasting Megadeth into an infant’s ears is probably not a good idea. Blasting it with me singing along would likely make her poor little ear drums bleed, so I kept the volume more reasonable.
Also, apparently, babies aren't big fans of open windows.
Some babies, like my little Josephine, are just not big fans of cars at all. Joey hit a point where she would scream her tiny lungs out for the entire duration of a car trip, unless someone was sitting in the backseat with her.
Now not only did I have to make all these concessions to her comfort and our preparedness, I also had to travel with another adult. At all times. Suddenly, getting behind the wheel of my car didn’t feel so freeing any more.
As the kids got older, this didn’t get easier, folks. My car stereo has gone from Megadeth to Laurie Berkner, and now, gasp! Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa. If I want to run to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee, I need to first convince Kimberly that wearing pants outside is a good idea. And when we get to DD, I can’t just get coffee. Kimmie wants a donut, Joey wants a ham and cheese flatbread, and by this time, I really want a shot of Bailey’s in that coffee. (Why doesn’t DD have a liquor license, anyway?)
The entire ride there and back is made up of questions, shrieks, and all kinds of other annoying noises from the back seat. Then Joey wants to play in the car instead of getting out. Then Kimmie hits the panic button on the alarm. Then I start to wonder if this cup of coffee was worth it.
It wasn’t. Maybe if they had thrown that Bailey’s in.
Every once in a while, I get to be in my car alone. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes, I say I’m going to the PTO meeting, and instead, I just drive around for an hour, drinking coffee and singing along to the radio. Sometimes, I barely make it till Paul gets home from work, and then say something like, “I have been cleaning other creature’s excrement all day, and now I am going OUT.” My husband stares at me helplessly as I grab my keys and take off.
Driving in this day and age may not be the most frugal of activities, but it's still one of my favorite things to do, when I can do it the way I want to.