Leaving Birmingham, I drive west toward Route 66. A road trip like this had been my dream for years. I’d always imagined Joni Mitchell serenading me from the car stereo, driving until I ran out of money and had to stop and waitress for a while, flirting with long-distance truck drivers. In my mind, I’d save some money, live on the cheap, and then take up the road again.
On this trip, however, the car stereo twangs with Hank Williams’s “I’m a Ramblin’ Man.” It gives voice to the surge of freedom I’m finally beginning to feel, with the warmth of the sun on my arm out the window and the bright blue sky ahead. I can hardly believe that I’m really doing this thing I’ve yearned to do for so long. Yes, I agree with Hank, I am a restless woman.
“Mommy?” my son’s voice echoes from the back seat, snapping me back to reality.
“How much longer?”
This is not quite the solo freedom ride I’d envisioned when I was 26. My companion for this “westward ho” is my 8-year-old son, Mason. I’m 42, and instead of no plan other than packing good music to play, the freedom ride has had to be recast to include juice boxes, apples, and granola bars to assuage little-boy hunger attacks between stops.
“How much longer until what, Mason?” I study him in the rearview mirror. His piercing, nearly black eyes reflect back to me.
“Till we see Daddy.”
How much longer? It’ll seem an eternity to him. For me, however, the two weeks before…