We rarely took trips when I was growing up. Once we drove all the way down to the coast and visited “Dolphin Island.” Sadly it wasn’t exactly what I had expected. It wasn’t an island where the dolphins lived and played and it wasn’t even spelled like dolphin, it was Dauphin.
I remember this trip’s actual ride in vivid detail, I couldn’t tell you where we stayed or much else but the drive there was amazing. It was the first time I remember thinking how beautiful the grass was that grew in the ditches on the sides of a Southern road. Thick, soft grass that you just knew from the look of it that it would feel so good beneath your feet.
Trips back then meant we borrowed one of the grandparents’ big ole cars to make sure everyone had plenty of space on the drive. It was long and it was mean, and it was dark green. It smelled strongly of leather — even though it was many, many years from new— that good leather that just took a beating. The trunk was easily big enough to hold all of our bags, coolers and even a dead body or two, just in case. I don’t remember the seatbelts, probably because we didn’t use them back then.
My habit of hand surfing was born as I sat as close to the open window as possible and let the breeze wash over my face. Summer is hot and a Southern summer is beyond description. You can feel the heat when you swallow and smell it when you breathe in deep. It’s a physical characteristic of my youth that was always there. The speed limit was a lot slower back then and driving “the back way,” we would slowly coast through these small towns as we headed over east and down south to weave our way to the Gulf Coast. I used to think it was normal to see little houses dotting the sides of the road, rusted out cars and car stations that kept their front door propped open to catch the breeze.
Why is it that main roads tend to get cluttered with the saddest little houses? Maybe it’s because the land is cheaper because the highway noise and chance of outsiders making trouble is higher? No clue, but there was always something entertaining to watch out that backseat side window. Sometimes we’d pass kids flying kites in and out of the weeds of fields. Other times we would see people fishing in the ditches. Life was real simple back then through my little eyes.
I didn’t think about whether there was enough food in their fridge or covers on their beds. I envied their freedom, while I was stuck listening to AM radio in the backseat of that hot brick on wheels. That was back when the rear windows went all the way down and the seats reclined quite a bit, so eventually you could just kick back and let the wind sooth you into a trance. How simple is life when your world is small and limited?
The bridge between mainland Alabama and the island was easily the scariest thing I’ve ever been on. And we didn’t slow down as we headed up and out onto that massive thing in the green speed demon. I was certain we were all going to fall into the water and get eaten by dolphins. I tried the old trick of holding my breath as we crossed it but I couldn’t do it. I was left gasping for breath and as I leaned out the window, I could see the mainland fade behind us. Then fear took hold.
That’s how childhood is, isn’t it? As we hold our breath and make that scary trip into adulthood, we are bridging a gap and the potential for failure is all around us. Dig deep and resist the desires of the world; they hold nothing but disappointment for you. Hold your faith close and know that God has your back, then lean back in the seat and let his love and faithfulness soothe you. “Adult-ing” is hard work but you don’t have to go it alone. Fear not.
— Kalynn Brazeal is a conservative, Christian wife/mom/country girl carrying around an MBA, several decades of business experience and a strong opinion. Now living in the remoteness of North Dakota, she continues to share her column on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and cake. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.