Maybe it’s because I’m from the west — but I love road trips. There’s no greater feeling of freedom for me than being on an open road, driving, watching the land change and the world whip by.
Last night, we stayed in El Paso with an old friend from law school and his wife. For years, we’ve had a photo of him on one of our walls, passed out at one of our parties. He used to come and visit my husband and me, driving hundreds of miles overnight to see us, then sleeping in his car in our driveway till we woke up and he could scratch on our window and be let in.
Thirty-some years later, he’s become more respectable and decades go by without his scratching on our window or passing out on our couch. His wife told the story of their first pregnancy, when they worried they wouldn’t be able to conceive. All of a sudden, HE developed morning sickness and became convinced they were expecting a child — which, it turns out, they were. You’ve got to love a guy that sensitive — even though I would have demanded he cut out the Couvade syndrome business when it was time to go into the delivery room (Couvade is when the guy develops all the symptoms of pregnancy; I know that because my first book, which is tragically out of print, was a humor book on pregnancy).
We left El Paso and drove through the panhandle of New Mexico, then into Arizona. My parents once lived in Tucson and my husband went to school there, so it holds great and fond memories for me. Now, we’re in Phoenix, staying with my Uncle Bob and Aunt Janet. Bob is the relative who had his photo taken with Satan or, as he’s known in this country, Dick Cheney. But after soul-searching and agonizing, he ended up voting for Obama. I knew he was somewhat inclined toward that, but never thought he’d go through with it. He’d just lived in Oklahoma for too many years, for one thing.
“Do your kids know who you voted for?” I asked him, speaking about his two adult daughters.
“No,” he said, looking a little sly and sneaky.
Holy shit. My uncle — who once paid my sister and me a nickel to scratch his back — is in the closet. I love having the power to blackmail him. Well, forget it. I’m pulling him out of the closet and planting a big wet one on his cheek. He’s renounced Satan and gone toward the light. Welcome to the 21st century, Uncle Bob. It’s wonderful you voted for a winner.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)