I really could use a Sunday drive. It’s unbearably hot right now in Indiana, the air oppressive with humidity. We’re deep into summer, and it’s one of my favorite times of year. Each day that passes seems farther and farther behind me now; and the days ahead stretch endlessly to that distant deadline of SCHOOL. Things just seem slow. And I love it. There’s no hurry to anything. Probably because it’s 100-degrees out. But whatever. Everything moves slower in summer across the crackled landscape; the pace suits me just fine. As long as I have a little respite in the AC somewhere, I’m good and ready to slow down. The lazy hazy days of summer are most definitely here.
I drive home every day from work – an hour-long commute each way – through some of the better parts of the state. Other would disagree. But I’m completely serious; I love it. It’s an easy drive, mostly on state and county roads, heading in straight paths most of the way, never veering too far off the four central compass points. I travel through fields of corn, deep green oceans of soy beans, golden patches of wheat – all rippling in the breeze as I fly by. Driving calms me. Sometimes, I get to thinking so deeply about whatever, it’s like I’m in a trance, and the fields whoosh by me in a yellow-greenish blur. Almost like some sort of tunnel vision.
I’ve always liked wide open spaces – seeing as far ahead as possible, and on either side of me – it gives me room to think. Maybe this is why I’ve never minded the commute. A drive through the country reassures me; I like knowing farm fields still populate most of Indiana. It makes me feel safe. Mountains are intimidating; forests seem claustrophobic; oceans threatening. But the open fields sing to my heart in the way no other landscape feature can. It’s simply home.
We’ve always gone on drives as a family. Quick jaunts to get a treat. Peaceful treks through the county. All-afternoon sojourns to God-knows-where. Often, there was no set path – just a destination. The “fun” was seeing how we could get there. As in, let’s find a new way! Or worse, there wasn’t even a destination in mind. These drives were torture as a kid. When I graduated from college, and returned home (and saw my siblings growing up AND out), I didn’t mind them so much. I actually began to appreciate the drives with my parents. Now, I unabashedly enjoy them. They are relaxing. And they almost always end in ice cream. :)
The day I had my dog Heidi put to sleep was one of the most memorable. I was obviously distraught; I didn’t want to move myself from the couch where I was lying in grief. But Mom knew best – as she always does – she simply asked me to come along. In fact, there wasn’t much asking – she just said I should. I didn’t want to, really. But I did. And I was glad. We drove to Brazil (Indiana, that is), as we so often do. Ended up taking the detour through Center Point, along with a stop at the cemetery to say “hi” to my grandparents. About a month later, we would head back to that same cemetery to bury the ashes of my lost doggie alongside her original owners, the grandparents, reuniting them once again.
Anyway, drives are just one more thing that reminds me of Mom. She once told me they took drives all the time when she was a kid, to escape the heat. That was before AC, and it was something many people did in the evenings. Later, when she married my dad, they took drive-dates on the weekends, because they didn’t have any money. It was a tradition that would continue with us too.
My parents owned a huge shit-brown Monte Carlo once (sorry Dad, but it *was*). I have many memories of riding in that ginormous back seat with my sister, both of us sitting atop our “child seats” – mine a wooden box (that had been Mom’s), Katie’s an awful plastic thingy. This was before car seats, seat belts, and vehicle laws in general – somehow, we survived. The windows were rolled down and we could easily peer out to watch the county landscape go whizzing by. It was a summer ritual.
Summer drives are especially enchanting – the sounds of cicadas and tree frogs, the possible sighting of fireworks in the dusky sky, the flickering streaks of lightning bugs along the roadside, the pungent smell of charcoal grills, the thick humidity cloaking our faces, all the people sitting on their front porches as we’d drive through one tiny town after another. I don’t know who was crazier – them, for choosing to sit outside and watch passersby as weekend entertainment, or us, for driving around looking at them.
I still venture out with just Mom and Dad, although it’s been quite awhile since we’ve taken a Sunday drive of any kind. I miss it. It’s one thing I wish we’d do soon; I’m keenly aware that time is running out. I feel like I hurry, hurry, hurry through life – and why? What does that accomplish exactly? Anyway, I like this slowness. I appreciate the days where I have nothing particular to do. And I have two weeks of that coming up. Vacation starts tomorrow. And lots of time with Mom. Maybe we’ll go for a drive. :)
The recipe below for Broccoli Salad doesn’t have a particular memory associated with it. Like the Strawberry Shortcake before it, it’s just another reminder to me of summertime. I made it for the Fourth of July cookout we had at my sister’s house. Enjoy!
2 large bunches fresh broccoli
1 lb. bacon, fried crisp and crumbled*
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 cup sunflower seed kernels
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
3 or 4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Cut broccoli flowers and tender stalks into bite-size pieces. Discard stems. Place broccoli, bacon, onion, and seeds in large bowl. Whisk together mayo, sugar, and vinegar. Pour over salad. Toss gently. Chill 2 – 4 hours before serving.
*The key to frying perfect bacon: Low and slow. Remember that mantra, folks. LOW AND SLOW. Keep the heat at a low to medium low temp. Take your time. This method renders the fat just right. The bacon becomes more flavorful, light, and delicately crisp. As opposed to the dark, salty piece of jerk you often see in restaurants. Trust me. This is from my Mom and years of perfect bacon at holidays, on Sunday mornings, and every time in between. :)