Today we drove twenty minutes to Manalapan. I remembered the ride from when I was younger, down from New York visiting my grandparents in Delray. After a sun-soaked afternoon at the beach, we’d take what felt like a private road—the Barefoot Mailman route, which is actually A1A—up to the Plaza Del Mar’s Ice Cream & Yogurt Club. It was one of the first shops offering hard scoops of Oreo frozen yogurt. I say why bother. But our mother recited the mantra of Diet Coke addicts everywhere, “Every little bit helps.”
For a short while, calories and a frozen treat weren’t my only focus. I was there for the ride. The drive itself is an exercise in imagination. It’s the kind of road that feeds dreams. It was a balm for our overtired bodies and underworked minds. It’s not that there’s a canopy of trees, no; there’s a tunnel of Australian pines and Cuban laurels that stretch long enough for you to stop and think, “Why do the trees know to curve toward each other like that?”
In the back of my grandfather’s car, Lea and I would call dibs on the mansions. “That one’s mine!” Much the way we did with everything, though with years we twisted dibs into damnation. Of the flatulent Boss Hogg doppelganger, “There’s your boyfriend.”
“Too bad your boyfriend is that guy,” she’d say, cursing me with a man whom, upon first sight, made me think of wild boar.
At random moments, usually from the back seat of a car, we’d play our boyfriend and house game, cursing each other with a series of objectionable suitors and hardscrabble shacks. For laughs, to instigate, but mostly to “make the food come”—an expression blanketed over all situations involving waiting (a visit to the bathroom or a look in a fish tank often does the trick).
When afflicted with a future beau who tried—and missed—to power snot out his window, Lea responded, “At least he’s got good taste.” And I would wet myself. Even years later, today I found myself shaking my head then abruptly breaking into laughter. Because my sister loves to eat her boogies. “Nature’s Candy.”
I love that a road can bring you that far back.