I want to converse in the car. I want to share our days, play car games, practice reading the road signs. But I just can’t. We do those things in the mornings, on Saturdays. But at the end of the day my head throbs with the stress and aching longing of a day slipped by. I need the peace that quiet travel brings. I’ve always loved to drive and in the afternoons, I take solace in the whirring of the wheels, the rhythmic thump of the windshield wipers, the hum of the radio, the vibrating wheel clutched in my hands.
But my girls. They still converse. I am like the shoreline, craggy and rocky and rough. Their chitchat is like the ocean, washing slowly back and forth over me. Many things they say come and go and don’t leave a lasting impression. Become part of the whirring sound in my head.
But like the tide, there are treasures that remain. Some are only special to me. “Mommy, Autumn’s shirt today was wicked cool,” “Maren, hold my hand, it’s going to get scary in this story.” “Hey, it’s Queen, turn it up!” Like a slightly purple piece of sea glass, worthless, yet worthy to me.
Some would be treasures for anyone to behold. “But wait! There’s more!” “As you well know, air is the enemy of freshness.” “I want strawberry muffins. Blueberry muffins are soooo ten minutes ago.”
At the end of the drive, pulling up in front of my house, I find myself, just like the shore when the tide goes out, smoothed by them. Though I didn’t participate much in the conversation, I find myself refreshed by it, rejuvenated by the white noise of their happiness, fears, laughter, tears. Their not-so-special and day-to-day is lifeblood to me.
When we first moved to the smallest town in the world, my mom admonished me to use that time in the car wisely.
“Brynna’s a captured audience when you are in the car for so long everyday. You can really teach her stuff, work on school things, sing, play games. You can really use that to your advantage.”I used to feel guilty every time I pulled onto our street and realized I hadn’t done any of those things. It seemed unconscionable to waste such precious time and opportunity.
And maybe it is, but the truth is that I need to just listen for that period of time. Right now, it’s mostly Brynna, but it won’t be long before Maren is joining in with news of her day. And then the conversation will turn to school and books and movies and friends. Gossip will be exchanged and music will be analyzed. They will begin to have an opinion on the radio station. Brynna won’t jump up and down about Queen anymore. Maren won’t squeal with delight every time Janis screams to just take it. But if I can just keep listening, I might hear all the things they want me to know. Even the things that they don’t want to tell me.