About a quarter till eleven last night, my son came into my room and flopped down next to me. "I'm bored."
Usually I ignore when he says this because he is always bored (particularly when waiting on something Xbox Live-ish to download), and I am not an entertainment director. But instead of sticking to the rehearsed script (dialogue which usually includes "leave me alone" and "I'm busy here, kid"), I turned to him and said, "Wanna take a drive?"
I have 1997 Mazda Miata. She's not as pretty as she used to be, but she's in good shape, and she's a convertible. I pushed down the top, my son loaded in the 1960s tunes, and we took off.
This is a game we sometimes played in the Old Life. I would put the kids in the car and say, "Pick a direction." We'd take turns picking left or right or straight until we were delightfully lost. It was escaping without really escaping.
The Boy and I stayed on known ground for a while until a right turn took us on a really long, curving road, and a left turn took us into a hospital parking lot. After that, we decided to just go straight.
We ended up in a neighborhood with big houses and landscaped yards. The Boy turned off the CD player and while I drove this way and that, we talked. Eventually, I found my way out of the fancy neighborhood and ended up on a street I recognized. Sorta. We passed an IHOP. The Boy and I looked at each other, and he said, "It's open twenty-four hours, Mom."
And so I made a U-turn. That's how we ended up at midnight, him with a basket of chicken strips, and me with a plate of crepes, playing a game of Spongebob Hangman on my Android phone.
The phone also has GPS, and I fired it up so we could get un-lost. It turned out that I had no idea where we were at all, so ... yay, GPS.
It's easy to make a writing analogy out of this adventure. I could say things like, "follow your instincts," and "don't be afraid to go down dark roads," and "sometimes meandering helps you find a better way."
All of those things are true, but I think, really, the connection between taking a spontaneous drive with my pre-teen son and how it might help me with writing is simply this: I can take any moment any time and make it different. In a book, I can rewrite a scene. And in my life, I can change "go away," to "come with me."