The prompts du jour:
1. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Write about a time you taught someone a lesson you didn't want to teach.
2. Talk about a time when you were driving and you sang in the car, all
alone. Why do you remember this song and that stretch of road?
Any parent who says they have not ever been cruel to their kids to teach a lesson is in denial or they have kids who run all over them. Any person who has ever had to deal with a loved one's substance abuse, ditto.
Another day for those stories. Let's take a road trip.
It was October 1997. I was heading, by myself, to California where I was beginning a new life, a new job, in a place that was completely unfamiliar. I was about to turn 50. It was one hell of a mid-life crisis.
I'd left Alabama on Sunday morning; left my husband of 27 years, my 21-year-old daughter who was in college there, a job, a host of friends and a life I'd known since I'd graduated from college. It no longer was enough. I knew I didn't want to look back years later and wonder 'what if.' So I was moving on.
A lot of preparation and angst went into the decision and the move, mind you, and it fell together, finally. I knew it was right, but it wasn't easy. I was eager, though, for the road trip, the transition of miles between old and new lives, the complete change of culture and topography.
That was my Grateful Dead period, about 20 or 30 years later perhaps than most people my age, but then I'd come late to a lot of things. I'd been properly introduced to the Dead that year through an Internet friend, a person who ended up being a huge influence and teacher to me on many levels. I was in love with the poetry of the lyrics, the harmony of the voices, the intricate instrumentation, and I listened to studio albums as well as tapes recorded live at concerts.
They accompanied me on that three-and-a-half-day journey, across I-40 through Tulsa and Oklahoma City and on to Amarillo, and then Tucumcari. Through the long straight stretches of prairie and sky, I sang "Just a Little Light," asking for 'just a little sweetness, just a little light.' I bounced in my seat to "Come hear Uncle John's Band by the riverside, Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide."
From there, I wove my way through the mountains around Flagstaff, singing songs from "Terrapin Station," especially "Lady with the Fan" -- "Let my inspiration flow in token lines suggesting rhythm that will not forsake me till my tale is told and done," and then my favorite, the segue into the album's title song: "From the northwest corner of a brand-new crescent moon crickets and cicadas sing a rare and different tune..." Indeed.
I paused overnight at the brink of entry into California at Kingman City, Ariz., with strains of "Box of Rain" and "Walk into splintered sunlight Inch your way through dead dreams to another land." And continued the next day across my new state, marveling at golden brown dunes and slowly rotating windmills, to Cambria and the ocean, singing, "Built to last while years roll past Like cloudscapes in the sky Show me something built to last Or something built to try...."
And then on a bright, sunny morning, I meandered over the last bits of highway, the glorious and curvy Highway 1 through Big Sur, the lush fields of Castro Valley and Watsonville, to Pacifica, my new home, with "Touch of Grey;" "Oh, well, a touch of gray, kinda suits you anyway, That's all I had to say 'cause it's alright I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive."
I still listen to the Dead sometimes. I still smile when I hear those road songs, those voices that helped me make the biggest change I'd ever made for my life, and gave me lyrics to pin my new dreams on.
"Terrapin - I can't figure out
Terrapin - if it's an end or the beginning
Terrapin - but the train's got its brakes on
and the whistle is screaming: TERRAPIN..."