left, right, straight
The windows are down, and the air comes blasting at our faces as we make the tight turns on these windy country roads. It doesn’t take much to get off the beaten path around here, and not surprisingly, that’s where we like it best. The summer’s heat has died down, and who wants conditioned air when we’re lucky enough now to suck this fresh air deep into our chests, breathing in every earthy-tomato-blossom. Driving like this makes me feel adventurous, even if our biggest adventures these days is choosing a grocery store. So we take the long way, because it’s hard to fight the urge to explore a little more, see whats around the next curve.
There was this game we used to play, Mark and I, when we were dating. Long after the movie credits rolled, after popcorn bags were tossed into trashcans, but before we were ready to head home and say goodnight, we’d get in the car and drive. First it was in Mark’s “batmobile” – that black Laser that actually talked to us, and later it was in his first grown-up blue and white striped pick-up truck. The vehicle didn’t matter because the game was always the same – let’s see where we end up. It may sound rebellious, or playfully devious, but it was none of those things at all. Mostly, it was a way to find some space to have those conversations – you know the ones. The ones that are a string of words tying and untying knots – knots that mark time, and weave a life – and it’s these strings that tie into each others hearts, threading souls together.
As we sorted through our selves, unpacking and repacking our souls, we’d drive. When we’d get to an intersection, Mark would look over at me, and the game would start: “Left, right, straight?” We’d take turns choosing, with no expectations of a destination. Sometimes we’d make small, silly circles; other times we’d end up in unfamiliar territory, having to remember and retrace our steps until we could recognize a landmark. Left, right, straight. It was a multiple choice quiz, a choose your own adventure. When we were younger, these explorations always ended the same – I’d watch Mark’s taillights blaze up the road, after being kissed goodnight. But later, our adventures grew as we did, and together we covered some territory, always the same way: Left, right, straight?
It’s a game that we’ve continued to play, through the years, and now with time to kill on a Sunday summer day, Mark tosses the question to the kids in the backseat: “Left, right, straight?” The wind from the windows flushes over their cheeks. Grant is always very practical in his decisions: we chose right last time, so this time we’ll go straight. He can be concerned about the destination, sometimes worry when he loses sight of things known, but Renee’s devil-may-care eyes tend to even out the equation of our car’s path. Griffin shouts each word straight into the wind, repeating each command that the other two have given.
This summer, and maybe all summers, pulls my heart towards the unknown, towards adventure. I want to be surprised by what my eyes wide open may see. I want to get lost. But it can be hard to get lift off for adventure when there is so much weighing me down. It’s hard to get lost with a GPS stuck on the dash.
It may not be the grand adventure of an unexpected road trip, counting up the coins in the seat to see how far we can make it, but we’ve loosened grip on the routine, on the predictable in exchange for family friendly adventures. Left, right, straight is the equivalent of my other summer mantra – let’s see what happens. It’s haptic learning for life. “Mom, can we dig in the grass? Can we pour water into our hole?” Sure, let’s see what happens. Tell me what happens when you mix all of your paint colors together. What was it like when you picked all that lavender and smushed it in your hand? Let’s see what happens.
There are times when this lesson of adventure is less about a game, and more about life. Then, too, we’ve learned to stop at the intersections, and ask the same questions of each other. Sometimes, it’s less about adventure, and more about seeking The Path. And at those times, it’s less about taking turns calling the shots, and more about together driving the car. But even then, we drive with the windows down, knowing that the scenery is just as important as the destination, and we all help get where we’re going.
Left, right, straight. It’s about the collective adventure – we all get to play in this game. Sometimes, it means stopping for ice cream on the way home.
This is part of a series that I post occasionally about the family sayings and folklore that are meaningful to me, especially in my family history, as a way to explore my own Story. Similar posts can be found here: back to zero, or here: ‘near nough. or here: it’s not that windy. Tell me some of yours!