Last Sunday it was a wild and lovely day at the ocean, rain and wind but moderate enough for about a gazillion gulls to practice gliding in groups. We weren’t nuts, we stayed inside and had our picnic in the car, and got the added pleasure of watching the amazing pattern the rivulets of rain made on the windshield. The ocean always puts on a complicated show, Seeing that through the silken pattern of the rainflow was exquisite.
On the way home, winding the familiar road through the coastal hills, I looked across at Conrad’s profile and was suddenly verklempt, totally overwhelmed with a rush of emotion. The pages of memory shuffled like a deck of cards, and the present became alive with the past. All the times, all the miles, all the years of looking across at my man with his hands on the wheel as we traveled the hundreds of thousand of miles of our touring life on the road. We just about wore the wheels off three successive Dodge Maxivans in those years, and most of the time it was as a family.
Memories. In 1977, driving through the night from gritty Chicago toward new life in the green hills of eastern Pennsylvania, our three-year-old daughter rolled over in the big bed, looked out the window and said, “Look, Mama! The moon is coming with us!” Our first tour in Texas, realizing that the roadkill we’d been seeing was armadillos. Cresting a mountain ridge coming into San Francisco at night, suddenly seeing the land below as a velvet lapful of jewels. Following a Carolina host to his home for dinner and finding we’d been following the wrong car when it pulled into a supermarket parking lot. And omigod, the night we had to sleep in the van outside Atlanta—the four of us and two other actors.
We developed survival comfort strategies for nights in the van. A dear friend (that’s you, Michael) told us his choice of road-booze for a last nip was Southern Comfort. After nearly gagging, I came to like it. One Saturday night we were sacking out in southeastern PA, somewhere near Oxford, and realized there wasn’t anything in the flask. I’d seen a liquor store not far back up the road, but as we got there it was closing and we were told that everything in PA was closing too. We were only a couple of miles from Delaware, so we kept going. As we pulled into a parking lot we found that Delaware was indeed open later, but was also just closing. We went back to the road and took a left turn into Maryland, a dependable pit of sin, and scored. The whole three-state trip took half an hour, and then we slept well. Next morning, the Unitarians had no idea.
It was always a Dodge Maxi, not a Roma caravan, but there was a magic about being road-warriors. This spring Conrad’s going to London and later I’m going to Brittany, and each of us will spend four or five days in Italy with our daughter. The moon followed her all the way there.