In the evenings I drive in circles. Figure eights, more likely, if you were to follow my car from above. I trace the pattern from dance class to play rehearsal, from fencing practice to piano lessons. Dropping off and picking up; dropping off and picking up.
It's never more than five minutes in any direction in two compact towns: ours and the one next door. My daughters are teenagers, old enough that the paths we travel are either well-worn (dance, piano) or affiliated with school (fencing), so we don't need to go far. But once the sun goes down, early on these cold winter nights, it's time to roll.
When I'm working from home and there's no time squeeze, I don't mind it. In fact, lately, I enjoy it. Our gaslit streets are dark, but I don't need to give any thought to directions. My headlights are like two flashlights with which I search out my children, to nestle them in beside me and gather them home.
It's not as messy and hectic as it used to be, with a minivan and car seats and snacks strewn everywhere, me constantly having to reach back to receive a toy or a sticky empty package, or to hand back a tissue or a sippy cup. No one fights about putting on shoes or getting strapped in. These days my girls are sleek and silent, gazing at their phones, or else they want to to talk, about school or music or life, and it's a pleasure to have one of them next to me, no longer relegated to the backseat, to watch their profiles and listen to their voices, these people I adore and spend less time with now that they are closer to grown.
But I like the driving alone, too, either listening to music or just to the silence. I find the familiar routes deeply satisfying. I don't even mind sitting in parking lots. I sit and breathe and wait. I think about how this phase has a few years left in it, and once they are off at school or in their own apartments somewhere, I will look back and remember these cozy, quiet times when I got to steal them back from the world for a few moments in the dark.