On a Philip Larkin jag, I think of his lines as I’ve driving with my 19-year-old up the switchbacks climbing the mountainside from the Connecticut River to Danville.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
We’ve been to see an old man — a doctor and a Zen Buddhist — whom I’ve convinced has answers, actual answers damn it, to the riddle of her and me and her father. My daughter hates the old man. Actually hates him.
It’s December and cold as hell. The sun sparks from ice at the edges of the river where the wide current is just beginning to freeze. The sun is nothing but cold comfort, so low in the sky warmth is merely a memory.
Driving, talking, we pass a particular bend in Route 2 where, decades ago and years before she was born, the Volkswagen bus my daughter’s father was driving broke down on the edge of the road. He had downshifted, stalled, and in that moment, the engine froze and refused to start. For years, the bus was parked behind his sister’s village house.
I stop in Danville for gas and wash the salt and road dust from the windshield, remembering the ugly tan color of that Volkswagen. From here, the road home is familiar all the way. I’m always writing about roads, always writing about journeys, sometimes just down to the post office to open the mailbox to see what’s there — or not.
Staring at the keys in my mitten, I remind myself my daughter’s journey is her own. Or, back off. Then I hold out my hand to her and ask, You want to drive home?
Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.