My Backseat Driver

When I was 16 all I wanted to do was drive.  I would always take the long way home wherever I was coming from.  I would open all the windows, let my hair down (I rarely let my hair  down around people….literally, not figuratively), and turn my music up way too loud.  There was something so comforting and exhilarating about being behind the wheel of car.  In theory, you could go wherever you want.  In reality, it was the only time when I was completely alone.   I was happiest and most relaxed driving in my hand-me-down silver Oldsmobile.

Then, I got old.  You know how it is: those things that seemed so much fun in your youth become chores.  (Wearing make-up also comes to mind!)  Driving was about traffic and high gas prices; being late because I got lost and wishing I had a  nicer car.  What before had been something that brought me joy now was just getting from Point A to Point B.  I lost a little thing….and isn’t it the little things that make us happy?

Enter Buffy the puppy.  There is no adventure this little lady won’t tackle.  From day one, she has loved the car.  Front seat, back seat, day, night, asleep in the back, alert in the passenger seat – wherever, whenever she is ready to ride.  And so it was Buffy who got me to roll the windows down in my car again.  It was Buffy – ears flapping in the wind – that got me to let my own hair down to tangle in the breeze.  It was seeing the look of pure joy on that gal’s face as we race down back roads that made me recapture that feeling that I had once felt. Calm.  Happy.  Free.

If it is true that a smile is contagious, then our happiness in my car is infectious.  The only way our driving excursions become more enjoyable is when I glance out at the cars we pass.  These distracted, impatient people can’t help but smile themselves when they catch sight of a drool-glazed, panting Buffy.  Her two front paws resting where the window lowers into the door, chest thrust forward to the wind, head held high, ears beating her face…if that doesn’t make the corners of your mouth turn up, I feel for you.

With Buffy’s help, my love of driving has been renewed.  I drive with her everywhere I can.  She knows the word “car”, and just seeing her enthusiasm as she runs and jumps in the backseat is enough to turn any frown of mine upside down.  I’m so happy when I’m driving with her, and when I see that look on her face I know she is happy too.  We are both bringing just a little bit of happiness into each other’s lives.

And isn’t it the little things that make us truly happy?