Car Rides & Other Things I've Forgotten | Teen Ink

Car Rides & Other Things I've Forgotten

March 20, 2023
By ForeverMore-Nonyi BRONZE, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
ForeverMore-Nonyi BRONZE, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"One foot in the grave, one hand in the Gucci shoe."

There isn’t much that I remember of my childhood, happy as it was. The days where I had rolled around in the grass, my only care when my mom would call me in for supper, feel so long ago, even despite my fairly recent adulthood. Looking back feels almost like looking through a curtain hiding the sun, the sheer fabric swaying from the open window’s breeze. You can still feel the warmth and light so clearly, bleeding through the silk, and yet, it doesn’t even come close to the real feeling of sunlight on your skin. 

I remember being happy for the most part, a cherub-cheeked little girl with pigtails tied up high on my head, my mother’s handiwork, naturally. Trips to the zoo, where I had insisted on wearing my dog onesie, floppy felt ears falling into my eyes every time I moved my head. Excitement at the real dog we took in later, the pup smaller than I was, even at the tender age of four years old. I offered names like ‘apple,’ and ‘banana,’ too young to think past the first words that came to mind, but wanting to contribute anyway. Racing to tug on my shoes to go outside, riding bikes with scraped knees, popping blown bubbles before they had the chance to touch the ground, a million and one things that I know made me happy once. 

I miss it. All of it. But what I miss most is the car rides. Those late night drives home, where the glow of the street lights flashed behind my eyes, glittering to cover up the dim of the light-polluted sky. My parents’ conversation would filter through my ears like water through a sieve, more than white noise to me at that age. 

“Can’t believe how-”

“Have you heard that-?”

“Kathryn just texted-”

It was always something new, some story from work or extended family to be shared within the time it took to get from one place to another. While they knew I wasn’t listening, I know now that they had minced their words, kept things gentle, in case it was one of the few times I had bothered to ‘eavesdrop’, though how one would keep from overhearing something when kept within the confines of the family car is beyond me, even now. 

Their muted words under the croon of our old radio and the rumbling of the car would lull me to sleep faster than the rocking of my cradle, head drooping back in my seat. The times in which it didn’t, I remember pretending, my eyes squeezed tight as I attempted to drift off in spite of myself. Because the moment we got home, they’d open my car door, unbuckle me from my seat, and lift me up into their arms off to bed. The memory of it lingers even now, years after. 

“Sweetie, we’re home.”

I would give no response, my face as placid and serene as I could muster.

“Janet, look.” You could hear the smile in my father’s voice as he pointed me out, supposedly asleep after we had returned home. “She’s out like a light.”

“You wanna get her?”

“Sure, I’ll leave the other girls to you then.”

They’d unclick their seatbelts, my mom shepherding my sisters out from the car as I felt the wind rush at my side, my dad already moving to lift me into his arms. I can smell his cologne, a scent that hasn’t changed in years, as I was pressed to his chest. Sometimes I’d pop my head up, a cheeky grin on my face as I gushed over how I had tricked them, other times I’d simply lay there, cradled in the safety of my father’s hold.

It’s only now, pondering over my future, that I remember how idyllic my past had been. I am far too tall to be carried home now, too old for the things I was allowed as a child. With age came freedom, but loss followed in its train like a plague at my back.

I can’t remember the last time I was held in that way. Was it seven years old? Eight? The years blur in my head like video on an old television, full of grainy black and white static. I sit and I think of the little things I have left of that part of me, that child sitting in her booster seat, eyes shut tight. What I would say to her if I could, or if I would leave her in bliss, leave her without worry. 

Perhaps… it would be better to leave her be. Let her sleep a little longer. Leave her dreaming.

I know I wish I had.

The author's comments:

The older I get, the more I find I miss who I was when I was younger. More innocent, more easily pleased, more kind to myself. It's become harder over the years, so much so that I wish I could return to those car rides, when time was slow and I was in bed before eight.

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