Here I am in the States, so far with 4 events behind me and 19 more to go. I had a little gathering in NYC with people who worked on the book, a book club meeting in Staten Island, my first bookstore event, in my hometown, and then a book party in my college town. It’s been a blast, and my concerns over embarrassing myself have been completely overridden by the warmth of old friends.

That left the other fear: driving.

I had been timid getting my license in the first place. I waited until I was 24, and only got it then because that was the age my sister got hers. Until then I could just say, “Hey, my sister didn’t drive at my age either!” I hated learning to drive. I swore and I cried. But once I got used to it, it was fun. I even drove across the whole US by myself, twelve years ago when we needed to get my car from my single life in Massachusetts to my married life in California. That was a grand trip I wouldn’t trade for anything! (But perhaps in reliving it I’d skip breaking down in Nebraska.)

When we moved to England, our priority had been a home that was walking distance to most of what we’d want to do. Years of California must-drive-everywhere had made me crazy. So, I didn’t *need* to learn to drive in England. And, truth be told, I didn’t want to. It would be starting from scratch all over again; the swearing and crying were just under the surface whenever I contemplated it. It’s not just the “other side of the road.” The signage and symbols and colors are all just slightly different. Roundabouts are my nightmare. The upshot is that I haven’t driven in YEARS.

The way this itinerary worked out, though, I had to get from NJ to Pittsburgh to Ohio to DC on my own. And Amtrak and Greyhound had impossible schedules. We reserved a car rental. I felt the panic rising. I threw some CDs in my suitcase.

On Sunday, my sweetheart dropped me off at Newark Airport’s Hertz. I waited in a long line, then, finally in the car, took a few minutes to try to figure out the seat positioning and how to open the gas tank. I asked the guy at the exit booth how to get to 78. I reminded myself “BeeGees”: B for brakes, G for gas, from left to right in that order. I put my foot down on that right pedal.

Jersey is my home turf. 78 is the highway near my house. It all came back: This is how you drive. This is where you go. And the CD–Chess–was one I hadn’t played in a decade, not since our first child was born. I sang along with the kid-unfriendly lyrics and cranked the volume.

The day before, we’d stayed in my childhood home. I’d taken my kids to get pizza where I used to get pizza, and ice cream where I used to get ice cream. The hairdresser who gave me feathered hair in the 80s blow-dried my hair smooth for my bookstore event. My first grade teacher and high school English teacher and department head of my grad program were all there.

And then I was driving, to my teenage music, which I’d once listened to on tapes in a bulky Walkman.

And I wasn’t afraid of anything.

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