Sunny weather and blue skies make me feel like a road trip. America feels like it did when I was a visitor, full of giant roads and old-fashioned-looking highway signs and anonymous roads to nowhere and run-down diners with elderly waitresses who refill my cup and call me “hon”, and trees, trees, trees.
No, this isn’t quite the usual tourist impression of America: to Irish people, America comprises New York (with an addendum of Boston) and LA/San Francisco. Possibly Chicago and Florida. There isn’t really anywhere in between the coasts, unless some remember JR Ewing and bring Texas to mind. And admittedly, my introductions to the US were via Boston, New York (briefly), and San Francisco, respectively.
But the road trips I’m thinking of mostly, the memories that make me inhale the clear bright air and feel like hitting the asphalt, were when I visited central Pennsylvania to see my on-again, off-again boyfriend; the one I married, eventually. They were charged with emotion – excitement, anticipation, sideways glances on the long road out from the airport; a vaguely sickening feeling of imminent depression (and a red-eye flight) while trying to squeeze every last drop out of being together on the road back again a week later. Maybe that’s why I remember so piercingly clearly in the in-between seasons (when the air tickets were cheaper and the weather was nicer) how it felt to look around and see big-sky, big-tree America, at once movie-familiar and unexpectedly alien, before I lived here and it became no more than the place we are all the time.
So sometimes I look up from the local highway that’s now as familiar to my hands on the steering wheel as the roads of suburban south Dublin once were, and try to recapture that feeling that maybe, just maybe, the rest of my life was waiting somewhere out there on the unknown roads. And other times, when the sun shines out of a cloudless blue sky and the trees are waiting for their leaves, that feeling ambushes me unbidden and makes me catch my breath with a swoop of ten-years-ago me. And I want to hit the road and teach the kids all the words to the Chicago soundtrack and all the good Billy Joel songs and the contents of all the other cassette tapes that are gathering dust in the basement.