Wild and Free


Last weekend, Dave and I drove back to Michigan for some family fun. We took the turnpike, so we saw a whole bunch of big rigs on the route. Two things happen when I drive past a huge truck. First, I usually get creeped out by some guy staring down into the car at me. Second, and much more pleasantly, I am reminded of the time when I was four and a truck like that changed the way I thought about the prospects of the world.

Years ago, one of my dad’s oldest friends was working as a truck driver. One beautiful morning he drove past our town and stopped to hang out for a bit. I have two distinct memories of what was probably only a 20-minute visit, both of which are filled with the kind of wonder and amazement only children can muster.

He parked in front of our house, the truck taking over most of the tiny neighborhood street. When he arrived, he called me up into the cabin and sat me on the big, worn-out seat. He pointed up at a rope hanging from the ceiling and told me to pull down on it. I looked to the roof, lifted my tiny hand, and tugged. The most glorious, loud, obtrusive noise came out of the truck. I’d heard those horns on the road, but it was a lot of power for a four year old and I loved it. I obviously pulled it a few more times, no doubt annoying the lovely old couple across the street.

After that, we went inside to take a break from the gleeful mischief. He pulled open the fridge, grabbed the milk, and took a few gulps right from the carton. I couldn’t believe he didn’t use a glass. It seemed so bold and broke what I’d assumed were the rules of not only our home, but everyone else’s. I’m pretty sure I just stared at him chugging the milk in the middle of our kitchen—my mouth open and eyes wide. He may or may not have winked at me. I know I repeated this story to my mom about forty-eight times immediately after it happened.

The world felt wide open after his visit. What did it mean that someone my parents loved got to be so wild? How many of these rules could be broken? And, most importantly, what couldn’t I do now that’d I’d honked the loudest horn in the universe? This friend, with his easy confidence and unbroken spirit, showed me there were so many ways to be. I was four and the shake-up made everything seem ripe with possibility—the possibility of a world where I could sound the call of an elephant, a world with cars the size of dragons, and, most significantly, a world free of cutlery and dishware.

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