Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My first column for the Times Free Press: May 12, 2002

When the features editor of the newspaper where I worked asked me in early 2002 how old I was (30) and whether I'd be willing to write a column about my life, I went all beauty-queen-hysterical. I was doing that thing where I fanned my face with my hands to try to keep from crying and I was making these little involuntary squeaking noises. That is absolutely not the kind of chick I am at all, but y'all I had always wanted to write a column. Always. This was the first. Ten years later, I still get a little goofy about the fact that I get to do this.

Driving solo in the truck is somehow different now


    I'm not used to it yet. I still go blank for a second when anyone asks my age. But it's a small change, really, compared to others I've seen in the past few years.

    College flashed by in a blur of tests and parking tickets. Work began.

    My boyfriend became my fiance, and my wedding, a year in the planning, became a memory. My new name stopped being new.

    Then, after an autumn mountain bike ride, things really started to change.

    "I don't feel good," I told my husband, Jim, as I flopped on the couch. "I'm dizzy. I feel kind of sick."

    Seven months later, on Mother's Day, our son Jack was born.

    "I can't believe he's ours," my husband whispered the night we brought our child home. The baby was sleeping on Jim's chest, breathing deeply and curled tight.

    "He's not ours," I murmured, watching my husband and my son in the dim light of our bedroom. "We're his."

    That was two years ago. I was 27 when I married, 28 when my son was born. And in February 2002, I turned 30.

    There ought to be classes on how to get ready for all this, but I'm finding it's pretty much a learn-as-you-go proposition. And, really, I'm not sure the woman I was at 24 could have made much sense of what the woman I am at 30 would tell her.

    At 24, I drove with the heel of one hand on the steering wheel, bouncing my pickup truck through turns just a little too fast. I felt impatient, on the verge of everything, as if my life was just ahead if only I could land the right job, meet the right man, make the right choices.

    I was in a hurry.

    At 30, I pilot an aging Volvo station wagon with both hands gripping the wheel.

    From the backseat, my 2-year-old tells me what he sees. "Dump truck," he says. "Big van. Police car."

    I am far from my days of squeaking through intersections as the light turns red -- but not far enough to have forgotten.

    Every now and then, I leave my husband with the station wagon and the baby, and I go for a drive in the truck. I turn up the CD player, crank down the windows and howl along to the music in a way that makes other drivers change lanes to get away from me. I go nowhere. Not shopping or visiting or to get the oil changed. I just drive.

    That truck was mine for years. I drove it 3,000 miles a month during my first job at a small newspaper in North Georgia. I covered its back window with stickers that said things like "Karma Happens."

    But my truck became my husband's when we bought a Volvo station wagon.

    Don't get me wrong -- I like the wagon. But sometimes I miss my old truck. So, every now and then, I take it. And, for a while, I forget the names of the Teletubbies. I don't use my turn signals. I drive with my shoes off.

    Things are different now, though. After the initial rush of solitude wears off, my life at 30 crowds back in. I wonder if Jim knows the baby is due for his snack. Did I remember to bring the cell phone in case they need me?

    I start to miss my husband -- the way he rests his hand on my knee when we're sitting side-by-side in the car. How he turns the radio down so he can hear me when I talk.

    I miss my son, who chatters constantly about the view from his carseat.

    I realize that I was happy in my truck days, but that I am a whole lot happier now.

    At 30, when I encounter a traffic jam, I don't curse or scowl. I crane my head toward the backseat and say "Jack, what's that?"

    "Backhoe!" he squeals.

    He loves all the road work around here. Sometimes I kind of like it, myself. There's nothing like a 2-year-old in the backseat chirping "Track excavator," to make delays fun.

    And I'm really in no rush now, having discovered that life comes at you from all sides whether you hurtle madly toward it in a rattling pickup, or just roll calmly through it in an old station wagon while your firstborn comments cheerfully on the chaos.

    At 30, I'm still on the verge of everything. But I've discovered that we all are, all the time.

    While I was busy getting somewhere, my life unfolded all around me. Now I'm learning to appreciate the ride.

1 comment:

  1. As a thirtytensomething, I love the name of your blog. Looking forward to reading it.