Trip Down Pacific Highway This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 9, 2012
The sun came streaming in the open top of the convertible that Saturday. The wind swept through my hair, whipping the loose pieces against my cheeks. My dad looked suave behind the wheel, in a baseball cap and a pair of Foster Grants, not the fatherly attire I was accustomed to. The Pacific Ocean chased us on the right, and the rocky cliffs of Malibu separated us from the rest of the world. We sat there in silence, soaking in the salty aroma wafting from the ocean, thinking.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” he asked pensively. I nodded. He reached over and turned on the radio. “You know,” he shouted, trying to compete with the suddenly intrusive music. “When I was a kid,” I rolled my eyes in anticipation, “we never went on any vacations, especially not to California.”

“And you walked five miles to school, uphill both ways,” I added. He smiled. I turned and gazed at the jagged cliffside, remembering the time I was five years old and asked him to marry me. He explained that he was already married to Mommy, but I was still his best girl. Those were the times I thought my dad was the handsomest man in the world.

Then, I became a teenager, and suddenly Daddy wasn’t the most important or best looking man in my life. Brad Pitt, who still makes my top five, bumped Dad off the list. At my thirteenth birthday party, he attempted the Macarena in front of my friends. I was so embarrassed I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

With my sixteenth birthday came the privilege that kids wait for their entire lives – driving. Our white car could be seen every Sunday afternoon, driving in large, shaky circles around the school parking lot.

“Remember,” he would say, grasping the seat with white knuckles, “this is not a race. Take your time and don’t hesitate to use the brake, that’s what it’s there for.” This ritual went on for some time until I got good enough to go out on the road. I have never seen him look so terrified, except when we came home from summer vacation and our grass was brown and missing in places.

Now that I’m almost an adult, I guess Dad plays a new role in my life. Although I am not the chubby little redhead who couldn’t go to sleep until her daddy came to kiss her good night, I will always be his “Jennifer, Jennifer baby mennifer,” a term of endearment whose origin or meaning neither of us remembers.

I felt the smooth motion of the road under the car jump as it slowed to a stop. He was staring intently at the road, his eyes focused on the bumper of the car in front of us. I looked up at the sky and felt the warm rays of the sun beat down upon us.

“It is a beautiful day, isn’t it?” I said. He smiled and nodded.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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