Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I went for a drive tonight. I think that's the first time I've ever done that, just gone out and gotten in my car with no particular destination in mind. That's a dangerous proposition for me — well, not literally dangerous, but somewhat daring, considering that I have no sense of direction whatsoever. But I was sitting in my living room, having failed at studying for Property, feeling restless and not having any luck at finding people to blow off studying with me. So I figured that going out for a drive would be better than sitting on my couch being angry with myself for not being able to concentrate, and so I got up and went.

Initially I planned to drive south on 29, because I remember 29 South being very pretty. Two things dissuaded me: one, I couldn't remember how to get on 29 South without driving down the irritating part of Emmet Street (yes, I figured it out eventually); and two, I haven't been down there in a long time and I was craving something a little more familiar. So I decided to drive west on 250 into Ivy.

I must have made that trip a hundred times at least, from Jeff's mom's old house in Ivy into town and back, but always as a passenger. Jeff always drove, either his little red Civic hatchback, or, before that, the big yellow station wagon that his sister inherited when he graduated. There are a few landmarks that I remembered — the Ivy Nursery, the Boar's Head, the Volvo dealership — but the road didn't feel nearly as familiar as I expected it to. I got tailgated into Ivy because it just doesn't feel right to me to drive 55 on a winding two-lane road. Then I took a right on Owensville and went to visit Jeff's old house.

I didn't actually drive up to the house, because people I don't know live there now. It's been almost ten years now since the first night I spent in Jeff's mom's sewing room. That house was always a comfortable, happy place for me, and it was nice to visit.

I kept driving out Owensville Road, until it dead-ended, then turned onto Garth and headed back toward town. I passed horses, cows, thousands of azalea blossoms in full bloom, and some of the greenest grass I've ever seen. I saw the sun set and the moon rise, full, low on the horizon, yellow and shrouded in mist. I had my windows down and my music up, singing along sometimes, sometimes not, breathing deeply so as not to miss the smells of sweet hay and onion grass or the brown-sugary scent of wood mulch. It's too early yet for crickets or cicadas, but they'll be along, I'm sure.

It turns out that Garth Road turns into Barracks Road as it heads back into town. Thus, I was dumped off of the comforting, quasi-rural two-lane highway just a few blocks from the Law School. I wasn't quite ready to go home, so I headed over to school to see whether I could find anyone there who didn't feel like studying either.

I parked around back by Scott Commons and went in and walked the halls a bit. This is the sort of thing I do when I get in moods like this. Here and there I spotted people I knew, mostly hard at work. I sat and chatted with a couple of my Property classmates about the exam, which we're all planning on taking in the next few days, and one of them explained a couple of cases to me that I hadn't been able to understand. Then I ended up chatting with various other people until almost one in the morning.

Very little studying got done today, it's true. But the drive truly did me good, and so did the chatting. The law school during exam time really isn't so bad. I've been staying away because I always thought I'd find it stressful, but really, it's kind of comforting. Maybe I'll try studying there for a change.

And this part of Virginia is just so beautiful. I've felt somewhat disenchanted with Charlottesville recently, possibly because the parts of it that law students frequent are not the most charming ones, and possibly because I've just been having kind of a rough year. But the things you can see in an hour-long round-trip drive without ever leaving Albemarle County... well, I found myself a little breathless more than once.

I need to do that more. I'm told Earlysville Road is another lovely route. I'm sure I'll find out before finals are over.

When my Grandma Rosie died a few years ago, she left me the money that I used, in part, to buy my car. It's the first car I've ever bought for myself, nothing fancy, but I love it. And I know for sure that if Grandma Rosie could see me tonight, she'd be absolutely thrilled that, because of her, I was able to go out and drive around in the woods when I needed to.

There's one story I always find myself telling about Grandma Rosie because, to me, it so clearly represents who she was. When I was about seven, Grandma took me out to see the movie Willow. We went into the big, dark theater and sat down with our popcorn, and Grandma gave me a Tic-Tac out of her purse. Then the movie started. About ten minutes in, as I remember it, there was a scene in which a baby threw up. That absolutely terrified me, as my younger brother had had a string of stomach viruses that year, and I thought vomiting was the world's scariest thing. Grandma could tell I was upset, and when she asked if I wanted to leave, I said yes with much relief.

Outside it was sunny and warm. We walked home by way of the bookstore, and Grandma bought me a book and a bottle of orange juice. About halfway home, as we were crossing the street, I said, "I'm sorry I wasted your money, Grandma."

She looked down at me and smiled, and said, "The only way that would have been a waste of my money is if you'd sat through the rest of the movie and not enjoyed it." Then we walked the rest of the way home, and I wouldn't be surprised if she never even told the rest of the family that we hadn't stayed for the whole thing.

Grandma never said she was proud of me for anything I did. I didn't have to get straight As or be the best at anything. Grandma was proud of me for existing. And that day, she was proud of me for knowing what I needed to do, and for doing it.

As one of my friends put it tonight, as we sat amid the remains of Chinese takeout at a table in the low light of Scott Commons at midnight, this is the best job ever. We come in every day and spend our time learning interesting things from brilliant people while being surrounded by folks who are as nerdy as we are. It's a privilege to spend three years this way, and no three- or four-hour exam can invalidate that.

So drives in the country, and similar things, are the order of the day, every day, from now on. There's no virtue in misery for its own sake. Sad that it's taken me twenty years to learn that.


Post a Comment

<< Home