Here’s something I never told my daughters: the summer I was 19, the hitchhiking tour of New England my then-boyfriend and I took ended in a convertible ride from Springfield, MA, up I-91 to Brattleboro. The car was an enormous old beauty from the 1950s, and the boyfriend sat up front and talked nonstop with the driver, an ebullient pilot of his darn cool car. I sprawled in the back, the wind wildly noisy, holding my hair out of my face with both hands.
I was 19, in lust but not in love with the boyfriend, and I knew I wouldn’t marry him, as he doubtlessly knew he would never marry me. But we were both at that age of no longer child but not really adult, and we were madly in love with the world, with just the sheer possibility of living.
Every now and then, I think back to my younger self, flying up that interstate in a stranger’s car, my legs stretched out on the red leather seat, with no seatbelt tethering me in, admiring all that sky gradually darkening into a bloody July sunset.
I wear seatbelts now. I never hitchhike. My daughters sleep under a solid roof, in a well-built and deeply insulated house. My older daughter is 18, and I think of this story sometimes when she’s headed off with her friends. I say the same things my parents said intently to me, Drive safely. Keep your eyes open. Come home.
I stand in the doorway, watching her leave. What are you doing? she asks. And when I say, humor me, humor me, she’s gracious enough to do so.
It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened…
– Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn