Been rambling around the country for the last six weeks straight—Des Moines, Iowa, Athens, Ohio, Rochester, N.Y., Tampa, Florida, Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado—with my 17-year-old daughter Scout, who’s performing for college soccer coaches, hoping to find her place.
A friend asked me how the big tour was going. I told him I knew I would one day be nostalgic for this time together.
But in real life, she alternates between sleeping—her record was Chicago to Columbus, Ohio without waking up—and gaping at the handheld device that shows her all the fun she’s missing with her friends back home. Her only distraction comes from wondering both silently and aloud when, exactly her dad transformed from the Master of the Universe into such a confused and worthless old nincompoop.
And what am I doing? Wondering the same thing, while listening to what I call “books on tape,” about fly-fishing and baseball. Freaking out about missing highway exits. Drinking tall boys back in the motel room, and threatening to yell at the goddamn kids running up and down the hallways. And asking Scout as she heads off to the tryout, whether she has remembered to put on “suntan lotion.”
I told my friend what I’ve been really feeling nostalgic for was a trip out West seven years ago, which involved a dashing, daring dad and his adventurous young daughter putting pennies on lonesome train rails, creeping close to grazing cattle, kayaking across glacier lakes, climbing treacherous mountain trails with one hand on the bear spray. I remember looking over at Scout on that trip, somewhere in the Badlands, her hand out the car window riding up and down in the wind, and already aching, for the fleeting moment I was living in.
After that trip, I wrote:
There’s a wonderful video that went with that post, that YouTube keeps taking it down, because it’s full of Joni Mitchell music coming out of the CD player, with Scout and me singing to it, at the top of our lungs.
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.
Feels important to add here, this short excerpt from my book:
I picked her up from a sleepover way up on the North Side. She had her learner’s permit and she was driving us home, down Western Avenue.
She was tired, and we were quiet.
And suddenly it popped into my head to say, “You know, don’t you, that I love you just as much now that you’re a complicated teenager as I did when you were a simple, pure-hearted little kid?”
She said, “That can’t possibly be.”
And, after I nodded that it was indeed, she looked through the windshield into the middle distance, trying to fathom how.