Chauffeuring my two daughters and their friends around was always an eye-opening experience. Somehow it was forgotten that I was in the car and I was privy to many insider conversations. I could overhear the latest gossip, like who likes who or the latest injustice, like the stupid assignment demanded by an unfavorable teacher. Sometimes, I’d be included in the discussion for some topics seem easier to discuss without direct eye-contact. The bubble of the car was conversation heaven.
I had a similar car ride experience last May, yet those involved were not teenagers but octogenarians. I was driving my 80 year old mother and her friends to a birthday dinner at a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C.. All those in the car, including my mom, had grown up in D.C.. As we passed landmarks, they shared their memories while I drove.
“How did we survive without AC?” my mother asked as we drove in my air-conditioned Subaru on a Saturday afternoon in May when the temperature on the dashboard read 92 degrees.
“My brother and I would go to Rock Creek Park and sleep there overnight on hot days,” one women remarked. “You probably can’t do that today.”
“You just camped out?” I asked, thinking how that doesn’t sound like a safe thing to do.
“It was a different time and the park, with all those trees, was so much cooler on a hot night,” she answered.
“That house reminds me of Dr. Brennan’s row house on my block,” another said as she pointed to a row house with a corner tower on its right side. “His house was the first with an indoor bathroom.”
“Your house didn’t have indoor plumbing?” I asked.
“Not until I started school,” she replied. “I remember we were all a little skeptical about using an inside bathroom. We were used to the outhouse.”
“That’s where I got the bus to ride back home after school,” a third friend said pointing to a street corner. “I remember how my mom gave me a dime each morning to ride the bus home. But I wanted to buy candy from the candy store that was on that corner. So I would. Then I’d stand at the bus stop and cry. When asked why, I said I’d lost my dime and can’t ride the bus. Someone would always feel sorry for me and give me a dime.” Laughter filled the car after hearing that third story.
I kept driving through the city with these friends who grew up in a different time. I wondered what stories I might tell 30 years from now. What memories might I share while being chauffeured?