True Compass

Yesterday, my 15-year-old drove on the interstate for the first time. Fittingly, this route was one of our favorites — a hardly used stretch across northern Vermont and New Hampshire.

Coming home, we took the long way around St. Johnsbury, where one interstate joins in with another.

At a particular but unremarkable place, just as we crested a hill, I remember driving this same highway in our old blue Volvo, my then-husband in the passenger seat, our girls in the back, talking and doing some kid craft project. My then-husband and I were listening to an NPR report about Teddy Kennedy and the late senator’s true compass.

So many years have passed since then. Our youngest is now driving, utterly confident, her sister and I offering advice — be wary of semis, know that blind spot. As I’m chauffeured by her, I think how my daughters will be tested in their lives in ways neither of their parents have, their own forming compasses pushed and challenged. So often, I feel I endlessly run my mouth with advice — don’t trust any other driver, suspect impairment and incompetence — but I know my girls always make their choices, create their own lives, enact their own unique dramas.

Mostly, I’m just so damn glad to be here, still part of their lives, ragged and worn out, the worrying mama….

True compass, I ponder as we drive home. This piece I keep to myself.

By Brett Ann Stanciu

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.


  1. Your post inspired me to ask my fifteen year old to move my car today. It was parked down the street because the gas company did work in front of my house today. In Pennsylvania, kids don’t get their learners permit until they turn sixteen, which for him is 11 months away, but it just felt right.

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