When, for his 18th Birthday, your son is given the option of doing pretty much whatever he wants, within a given budget, and he chooses – comes up with the idea on his own – to spend the day driving aimlessly with his mother in search of interesting roadside attractions and a good Pandora station.. then, that is.. without a doubt, when you KNOW you have won at parenting.
We took Rte 9 out of town, and then at some point we took a right, and then a left, and then just for giggles we zoomed up the highway. We stopped at the Kennebunk rest stop, sort of a practice stop, and besides, they have a starbucks there.
I kept asking Tris where he wanted to go. Left or right? Take this exit? Want to see that museum? He kept shrugging noncommittally.
We found ourselves in Portland, on the water front, and we crept through traffic, goggling like tourists at the tourists. One sign caught our eye. It was painted with elegant flourishes and pale silhouettes on deep brown background. We tried to make out what it said.
“Brown… Tranny’s? Said Tris.
I stared, and cocked my head, and ran through my entire knowledge of fonts and vocabulary.
“Yep. I do believe that pub is called Brown Tranny’s” I said.
The slow plod of traffic was fortunate then, because we were laughing too hard to drive properly. We proceeded along the waterfront to the very end, and then turned in to a hidden, tiny parking lot. After waiting patiently for someone using a backup cam to back and fill their car out of a spot twenty seven billion times, without ever turning to see that they had miles of road behind them, we parked.
I had to pee, and hurried over to the meter to feed it and get my stupid little slip of paper. I hate those stupid meters, by the way. Loathe them, passionately, and no amount of logic will make me like them. But I digress.
I tried to feed a dollar bill in to the meter. It was rejected, as were eight subsequent ones, and one five. Tris tried, with no better luck. I don’t carry cards, so we had to pay cash or move. After much cursing, a little laughter, and several new steps added to the Pee Dance on my part, we gave up, and got back in the car.
At the end of the waterfront, I drove directly under a flock of seagulls who shit, with precision and alacrity and above all volume, over the entirety of my car. We decided that was a sign, and fled the city, stopping only to use the facilities at a friendly hippie food co-op. There I bought a soda and an iced tea to the tune of six bucks, and then spent the rest of the day saying to Tristen “It smells like hippie in here. Doesn’t it smell like hippie in the car? Like .. Nag Champa?” before realizing the aroma was actually IMBEDED in the glass bottles. Seriously.
After our foiled and aborted attempt at visiting the city of Portland, Tristen admitted to me that he really just did want to drive. He didn’t want to go anywhere in particular, or walk around, not really.
So we drove. We found the Way Way historic ice cream shop, and we found a Pandora station we could both agree on. We found a general store that looked a lot like one we’d been to in Utah, and we admired the scenery and the cars. Tris punched my arm for every single VW Bug, and I realized with a delighted exclamation that if I knock him flat TOMORROW, on his actual BIRTHDAY it’s no longer child abuse but just simple assault!
Late in the afternoon we found ourselves at a crossroads. We could head home, or we could head to Gorham, pronounced Gorram. The choice was obvious, and we confused the citizens of a small town by photographing Tris in front of their bank sign in the late afternoon of a spring Saturday.
We did head home then, but the long way. A 40 mile cruise on route four, with one stop at a salvage yard / antique store/ junk shop that ate up a full hour and possibly crossed inter dimensional lines.
By six thirty we were back in South Berwick, exhausted, and starving. We counted our cash and realized we’d spent next to nothing. With just enough left in the days budget we sat down to a birthday steak dinner at Isidore’s on the rocks, where we played hangman on Tristen’s new DS and laughed about all the great nothing we’d done all day.
When Tris was an infant, we lived in Georgia. We’ve driven 95 from tip to tip. We’ve gone west to Vermont on a whim, and we’ve conquered the Southwest in a summer.
So to end 18 years of child hood, I truly can think of no greater gift to give or receive than today. A day in the car with my first son. Happy Birthday, Kiddo. I love you.