It’s true that the basic premise of Driving Lessons
— city slicker trades in the hustle and bustle for smaller town living — was based on my own decision to move south to Atlanta with my husband after thirteen years in New York. True also that my protagonist Sarah’s inability to drive was autobiographical — I hadn’t been behind the wheel in seventeen years (!) when I arrived.
I’ll never forget my first foray onto the highway, with my husband in the passenger seat.
“I can’t drive!” I pleaded. “It’s been too long and I wasn’t even that good to begin with!”“
No, no, you can do this, you just need practice,” he calmly responded, convinced that I was exaggerating. “Let’s go.”
Needless to say, arriving safely, not to mention still married, at our destination via a virtual sea of driving lanes was no small miracle.
Unlike Sarah however, who is ambivalent about motherhood despite what she feels is a ticking time bomb of doom suspended above her thirty-six year old head, I was pregnant and happy to make the transition. Rather than fight my way onto the subway with a stroller or join a preschool waiting list before the start of my second trimester, I would gestate and write; perhaps finally learn how to roast a chicken.
So that’s what I did for the remaining months of my pregnancy. I wrote, learned how to cook and cobbled together my baby registry with the precision of a neurosurgeon. Atlanta seemed okay, but I didn’t really know why. I was too busy nesting, napping and not driving to say for sure. Oh, those naps. How I miss them!
And then, my son Ari arrived, and everything changed.
The reality of my decision — to leave all that I knew and start over some place else as the new Mommy version of my former self — proved very different from what I had imagined. In the exhaustion of new parenthood, I missed New York’s nonstop energy. I missed my friends. I missed my schedule. I missed my favorite restaurants and boutiques and coffee shops and bars and well, me. Part of that was of course, post-partum nerves and a sleeplessness the likes of which I had never known, but the other part was a real sense of yearning for something — anything — that felt familiar in such uncharted territory. And to find the familiar in Atlanta you have to drive. So, finally, with my tiny infant in tow, that’s what I did.
Really, that’s what I wanted to explore in this book — the yearning for the familiar in times of transition. Whether it’s motherhood, or a new job or relationship, I think all women can relate to idealizing the past when we’re scared about the future. It’s the process of conquering that fear which helps us redefine our present.