I am waiting in the carpool line, my tiny Chevy sedan wedged between two luxury SUVs. Crew practice is getting out a little late and the other students who share this boathouse with my brother’s high school are long gone. The gaggle of blue and gold boys is slow to emerge from behind the long brick building. My brother and his friends are not exactly prone to hustling. I see him glance at his phone, seeing but not reading the long list of texts I have bombarded him with though I know we can’t leave until the coaches set them free.
He and his two lanky friends slowly amble over and I manually unlock the doors. The conversation with these three never seems to end. One of them takes forever to buckle his seat belt and is always complaining about his teachers; the other has a slow drawl and takes forever to tell stories. They all clamber in and my brother changes the radio station away from whatever NPR story I had been occupying myself with. We turn left out of the parking lot and take the winding back roads behind the high school to drive these boys home.
When I was in elementary school I was a passenger in a weekly carpool to get to our religious education class. I have no idea how this carpool was formed as nobody was very good friends (and in some cases friends at all). The church was very close to our elementary school but there wasn’t enough time to go home in between, so one parent every Wednesday would brave the insane parent pick-up line in order to take us. I liked riding in the back of the big SUVs, sharing a short time and small space with kids who were way cooler than me.
My mom remembers this one week, though I do not. CCD was cancelled, but in the age before cell phones and constantly accessible email my mom didn’t find out. I waited at the parent pick-up line by myself for a long time before a teacher told me to go to the office and call my mom. She was furious that the parent who was supposed to drive us that week and picked up just her own child, leaving the rest behind. I have no idea how I was the only one who didn’t know to take the bus that day – did the others just walk home up the hill? For the rest of that year, my mom would call that week’s carpool parent to confirm that they would pick me up tomorrow, much to the annoyance of one girl’s mom.
Today there is a carpool mom group text, frequent exchanges about who’s driving today and whether somebody’s girlfriend will also need a ride. The boys are oblivious to all this; often they don’t even know who’s mom is picking them up that day. They just absentmindedly galumph towards the parking lot and look for a car they recognize, trusting that someone will. When my mom works late or the practice schedule changes, my little car and I are sent in her place.
My mom likes listening to their conversations, even though they are usually about nothing. One boy cannot remember what the coldest day of his life was until someone else reminds him, another thinks he may have lost his sweatshirt. They are constantly complaining about their English teachers and celebrating minor improvements in their boats’ speed. She doesn’t interject very much, but I like to remind them how ridiculous they are being. The other boys don’t have older sisters so I think it’s good for them to experience that, even if it’s just for the seven minutes they spend wedged in the back seat.
There’s a slew of tricky turns to the first house, followed by an ongoing debate about the fastest way out of the neighborhood. We go through the center of town so we can turn left at a traffic light, even though it takes a minute longer. The second boy has the steepest drive way I’ve ever seen and we pray my car can make it up. I wave to his mom in the doorway as we slowly back down the hill, with just my brother left in the passenger seat.
Another carpool run complete.