I must have been about four or five. My Mom was driving her behemoth 1975 Chevy Monte Carlo. I think it was a ’75. It was before the square headlights but after 1972. There was another woman in the car, I don’t remember her name but I remember that she was Native American or at least looked Native American and lived with her husband out in the country somewhere. The woman had long black hair that was parted down the middle, hippy-sunshine-girl style. I think she was a classmate of my Mom’s when my Mom was attending South Dakota State University. I have vague memories of just a couple of interactions with this woman and then nothing. Who was she? Is she still in South Dakota? Does my Mom remember her?
The car had those huge bench seats and I was in the middle. This is my first memory of ever having a headache. I think it might have even been a migraine. (The fact that it is the first memory I have of my headaches is amazing and kind of sad too. I have suffered from headaches and migraines most of my life. It’s sad to me that a childhood memory has to do with this pain.) Anyway, the woman had me put my head in her lap and she rubbed my temples. I remember her fingers being cool and that coolness comforting my nausea too. I remember the way the light was coming through the driver’s side window; my Mom’s profile against the last afternoon sunshine as she drove. I feel like she wasn’t too sure about this. I don’t know why; maybe that is just projecting my own feelings onto her. Maybe she was just concerned. I don’t know what happened when we got home, I think we took the woman home and then went to our home in White, SD. (Yes, there is such a place… http://whitesd.com/ ) I am pretty sure I fell asleep though and that my headache was gone.
I know that my Mom and I travelled the route from Brookings, SD to White, SD via Hwy 29 hundreds of times. My Mom was going to college full-time and she had put me into a day care center near the college. We travelled together a lot back then. (Road trips with my Mom are still very high up on the list of my favorite things to do.) Hwy 29 was a cement highway, like those popular in the midwest due to it being more durable in cold and snowy conditions, and I listened to the thump, thump, thump, thump of every section as it passed under the tires. I know we had to have had a lot of adventures together on it, words spoken, sneezes contained. But there are only a few vivid yet incomplete memories I have of those trips and they are of this day with the headache and of the day I lost my tooth in the gum I was chewing. I was older at this time, probably six or so. No more than seven because when I was seven, my parents divorced and my Mom and I moved to Hendricks, MN where I finished out my 1st grade year. We didn’t travel on Hwy 29 so often after that.
I also remember a time many years later when I was 18 years old and was following my Aunt Barb and Uncle Martin back from Sioux Falls, SD where they had gone to pick up a motorcycle. We were on Hwy 29 and they were riding the motorcycle and I was driving their HUGE Cadillac, which we had all been in on the way to Sioux Falls. It was black with gray interior and absolutely elegant. I blared Metallica’s “Black” in the cassette player. I thought I was being so ironic and super rebellious. I used to enjoy driving around in my 1979 Pontiac Le Mans blaring Nine Inch Nails too. I was sure a town like Brookings,SD was totally unaware of Trent Reznor and his crew. The reality is that Brookings is a college town…I’m sure now that Trent Reznor was old news by that time and I really just looked like a punk (and not the good kind) poser. I’m also sure I just annoyed people at the stop lights. Ignorance really is bliss, but self-awareness is a gift.