Random Guilty Pleasure: I-85

I imagine it is a common motherly trait to be overly cautious and paranoid and worrisome. I think my mom takes it to a new level, though. Any time I do anything remotely adventurous — well, what I consider normal adult activities, she considers adventurous — her first response to the mere mention of it is worst-case scenario, what could possibly go wrong, what I should be worried about, and why I should reconsider doing it in the first place.

You should have heard her when I told her I was going to the Amazon. “What if you get malaria? What if you get lost?” What if what if what if? If I tell her I’m going to a party, it’s “Watch your drink — people can drug you.” If I tell her I’m going shopping, it’s “Don’t talk on your phone in the parking lot. That’s what they look for.” If I tell her I think I might like to live in Colorado one day, it’s “But it’s so far away and it snows too much and we would never see you again because we can’t afford to fly out there all the time and you might get there and hate it and it’s so expensive to move!” If I say I’m going for a run, it’s “BY YOURSELF? Don’t go after dark, and be sure to take Birdy and your phone with you.”

I’m convinced she was a guilt-inflicting Jewish mother in a previous life. Actually, a famous holocaust survivor, Rena Kornreich Gelissen, once told her she looked exactly like her mother, who died in a concentration camp. “You have my mother’s eyes,” she said.

I have heard the phrase “Ohhhh, Maegan. You’d better. Be. Careful.” so many times that I have started waiting until after the fact to tell her about things. Like, when I went to Alabama the other weekend, I couldn’t tell her. The Alabama friends said, “You can’t tell your mom you’re driving to Alabama alone? You’re thirty fucking years old!” (I know. Believe me, this is my thought also.)

Obviously my friends knew where I was going, and I told my dad so someone in the family would know where I was in case of emergency, and because I knew I could trust him not to say anything. Because he gets it and he lives with her and he needs to keep his household drama to a minimum. Like a good child, I let her discover it on her own. On Facebook.

I think my mom made an effort when I was a kid to not be too overprotective and to let me experience things. My best friend’s parents were way more overprotective than mine. They wouldn’t even let her go to the beach with my family until we were in college, because, AND I QUOTE, “Something might happen.” But my parents let me do all kinds of cool stuff when I was a teenager. When I was a senior in high school, they even let me go to my college boyfriend’s fraternity formal for the weekend in a city 4 hours away. That’s pretty cool.

In my adulthood, she seems to be more open about expressing her fear at the mere notion of me existing in the world alone. I try to tell her that she should trust in her parenting skills and take comfort in the thought that she (and my dad) taught me how to make good decisions. I mean, I am a pretty level-headed person, generally. I’ve heard her warnings enough that it’s the first thing that pops into my mind as well when I think of doing something. I’m just able to suppress it so I can live my life and have fun without being completely afraid of everything.

Want to know the completely baffling part? She actually wants to go skydiving one day. I do, too, and I think I am going to do it for my birthday this year. Nick and I have the same birthday, so we are trying to do something crazy fun. But part of me thinks I should go with her so she actually does it, and take pictures and put them all over the internet to document her one adventurous, thrill-seeking moment. When she and my dad were in college, they talked about moving to Australia. What happened to that person?? I could have been an Aussie!

When I was younger, I was taught to fear most busy freeways more than most things in life, but I-85 in particular. My grandparents lived in Atlanta for a while, and when we would go down to visit, my nervous-wreck of a mother (I say that with love) would squeal and fake-brake and white-knuckle the oh-shit bar and caution my dad to slow down and watch out for that truck the entire 4 hours it took us to get there. Then, while we were there, she would talk incessantly about how fast everyone in Georgia drives — like they think 85 is the speed limit and not the name of the road. And how it’s no wonder there are so many accidents on it all the time. And how all the cops must be downtown busting up drug dealers because they sure weren’t giving out any speeding tickets.

Back home, where there were no roads more than four lanes wide, she beat into my head which intersections were considered “baaaaaad” way before I could drive myself (as in “That’s a baaaaaaad intersection,” every time we drove through it). Like where my grandparents’ road met the Rock Store in Shiloh before they put in the stop light. Or the intersection of Hwy 221 by George White’s store in Oakland. Or the place where Hudlow intersects Whitesides Road on the way to my cousins’ horse farm in Mount Vernon before they put in the caution light that senses when a car enters the danger zone and flashes to let you know to wait.

Inevitably it was a “bad” intersection because  someone she went to high school with or rode horses with or someone my cousins went to high school with or rode horses with was killed at it…probably because they pulled out in front of someone or were drunk. They were usually places with blind hills. Or blind curves. And when you live in the foothills of the mountains, blind hills and curves are pretty common.

Anyway, I used to be very nervous about driving on I-85 due to said instillation of fear. But on my road trip down to Alabama last weekend, it was mostly I-85 the whole way, and I found myself marveling how odd it was that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. Not only was I not afraid, but I found myself actually enjoying it. I love how fast everyone drives on that road, because you get to your destination faster, and you don’t worry so much about getting a ticket because there is always SOMEONE going faster than you. Who doesn’t like driving fast? It’s fun. I’m a careful driver — I don’t follow too close (mainly because I perpetually need to have my brake pads replaced and don’t get around to it), I always wear my seat belt, and I stay observant and alert and defensive.

My mom (like most parents) would say, “It’s not you I worry about! It’s everyone else!” Whatareyougonnado. I’m pretty sure that just keeping up with traffic on I-85 shaved about an hour to an hour-and-a-half off my travel time in both directions. And the only accident I saw, both coming and going, was in Alabama on the part of I-85 that is probably the flattest, calmest, and least trafficked, where people actually pretty much do the speed limit.

While I was driving, I kept having to squash this guilt that was rising up my spine at the thought of what my mother would say if she knew I was embracing I-85 instead of being terrified. And I finally just decided, you know what? Screw it. You’re chalking it up to a guilty pleasure. And you’re listening to Eminem’s offensive lyrics on your iPod, and you’re stopping in Braselton, Georgia for gas AFTER DARK. And you’re not getting home til AFTER MIDNIGHT. And it was okay. Because I am “thirty fucking years old.” And I do what I want, yo. Just don’t tell my mama.

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3 Comments

  1. Aaron Lesher said,

    August 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    That is AWESOME. What a perfect description. I’m thinking it is sort of an epic poem. There is a certain meter to it.

    My mother white-knuckled the oh-shit bar for most of my young adult life. I always thought your mother was as cool as a cucumber, but I can certainly imagine it all now. Mom isn’t really that way, but, boy, my dad sure is. We just call him out on it by saying “wah-wah”. Aaron: I’m thinking we should take Campbell to the waterpark. Dad: Make sure he doesn’t drown.

    I’m glad you do what you want, yo. Thank God they taught us to think independently.

    • Vicky said,

      August 22, 2010 at 6:35 am

      Thanks, Aaron. Nice to know we might’ve hit a good lick somewhere along the line.

  2. September 7, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Ha,ha! I can relate to that! I still here my mom telling me “Be sure you have good walking shoes in case your car breaks down and you have to walk.” and other fun stuff.
    It is good to be cautious, but I hate it when the worst-case scenario is the first thing that comes to mind, though. I’m trying not to pass this on to my kids.


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