“Mom?” In my daughter’s sleep-husky voice. A word which, spoken ever so gently or from a distance blocked by intervening doors and hallways and the muffle of sleep, will always wake me. Six o’clock. “Will you drive me to school today? I just need to sleep some more.” The logic that there are always the same number of hours, lighted ones only expanding and contracting slightly with the seasons, and one must adjust, get to bed earlier and never have to sleep in and miss the bus or the quiet hour before breakfast or the sunrise, whatever may be the mark of one’s beginning, always escapes through the gap where the warm and ragged exhale of fatigue escapes.
“Okay, this time.” I let go of my logic that there should not be 24,000 lbs of petro-powered steel and vinyl to carry 2500 lbs of flesh that three miles when 20,000 could do it, with a savings of a few gallons that ought to be stashed away for her future. She’s tired and needs a little love and a half hour more of rest, after all.
Coward, says my conscience. The part of me I said I would not betray. But these are gray areas, aren’t they? If my intentions are good, won’t it be okay? As the engine runs, gas burns, more greenhouse gases and grit get pumped into the air, in the name of love–how is that loving? And why is it so difficult to convince the people we love that we can’t go on this way?
This all seems to have happened so fast–peak oil, steady climb in heat and storm power, realizing the folly of our headlong rush to lead the world in resource consumption, I haven’t had time to construct a new language of caring and love, a new understanding that would put driving one’s kid to school in the realm of the socially unacceptable. Maybe even worth a fine or, for repeated offenses, loss one’s license and mandated community service. It still seems so normal to jump in the car for this, for that–even–the irony–to take children somewhere to exercise! And not one of my kids really gets that it’s a problem. One doesn’t think that way as a young person, though I see beginnings of that kind of broader social conscience in my oldest. So I really must keep at it and set that example. Remembering my Dad’s persistence eventually paid off in his kids. If I can be more upbeat, humorous, instead of the heavy tone, the theme of which is NO. Can I try, “Sorry, honey–I can’t drive you; I’m rationing carbon output for your honeymoon cruise!”