07 March 2013

girl in a fiat

I am far from my normal life and yet so much feels familiar.

The sun on my face—of course that is familiar, but it has been months since I've felt the sun's warmth.

The temperature, according to my rental car, is 55. At home, according to my phone that always displays the current temperature in Glen Ellyn, it is 25.

30 degrees of separation, but it feels a world apart. Here in the Pacific Northwest, there is no snow, no ice, no donning of a heavy winter parka before taking the dog out.

In fact, I'm in this place with no responsibilities beyond attending a wedding for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. I don't have to take the dog out—I don't have to do anything.

The thought of that both thrills and frightens me, and I feel for a moment that I've run away from my normal life.

I am the grown-up equivalent of the little girl who packs her bag with her teddy bear and her favorite Sunday School shoes and her copy of Charlotte's Web and then sets off down the road of life, which of course is nothing more than the street she grew up on.

She thinks that conditions at home have become unbearable because she keeps getting in trouble for reading past her bedtime, so she's decided to pack it in. She doesn't need this place; she needs to be somewhere else where nobody knows her and yet they understand her.

Is that what I'm doing here in Seattle? Escaping from my normal life where of course everyone knows me and to this place where I can make small talk with shopkeepers and call it a day?

That is not what I'm doing, tempted though we all are at times to run away from home and try a different life. That's why, in part, we go on vacation, I think. We want to be away from the normal rut of routine we can't seem to get out of because it is so deep.

And even from the first moment when your car points toward the airport—not toward work or the grocery store or church—from that first moment when you're "on vacation," you feel your soul start to elongate.

You can feel your muscles pulling yourself out of that rut, that darn rut, and you begin to feel not like a different person or someone trying on a new life—but you begin to feel more like you.

Last night when I picked up my rental car at SeaTac, the Enterprise girl said, "You got an economy car, so you can have this Toyota Corolla or this Fiat 500. Which would you like?"

I looked at the Toyota. It was a dark silver, just like my car at home, and while of course it's a new car, I can never see a Corolla without thinking of the old, old Corolla my sister drove in high school. A Corolla is what got us to school every day, but a Fiat...

When I last went to France, my friend Amie and I rented a car, and we had a Fiat. In that Fiat, we drove over the Pyrenees and to the running of the bulls in Pamplona. We saw fields of sunflowers stretching to the horizon in that car, and we drove on along a canal that was a UNESCO World Heritage site because it was so old and because it had transformed that little corner of southern France.

Adventure came to me in a Fiat, so I told the girl, "I will take the Fiat, thank you."

And just like that, I was a girl in a Fiat again, zipping around curves and wondering what would come next.

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