When I finally got my driver’s license senior year, the excitement that came with this newfound privilege and freedom quickly waned as I realized that I would now be responsible for taking my sister, a freshman at the time, to school.
Little did I know that that was the beginning of a tradition, one that would carry on and evolve over the next four years, one that I would come to cherish. One that ended a few days ago. I’m left feeling bittersweet about it.
When I was a senior, we’d coordinate every day to figure out what time we’d leave for school and what time we’d come back. Sometimes one of us had a meeting in the morning, and the other would just do homework or hang out. When I had debate after school, she’d hole up in a classroom and wait for me to finish. We’d look for excuses to eat out at places like Willy’s for dinner or Chick-fil-A in the morning.
Thinking back, half of my emotional attachment to these restaurants comes from those memories.
One of my sister and I’s guilty pleasures was going to the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A after class. We’d split a large order of waffle fries and a cookies & cream milkshake, trying to throw away the trash before our mom found out. We discussed clever excuses for why we didn’t have much of an appetite for dinner.
As my sister and I didn’t see each other much at school and sort of did our own things at home, those 30 minute car rides became our “special time”.
Most of the time, I’d convince her to let me pick music, but she’d often play something that she was into, and being in the car and listening to her recs in real time just made it all the more easy to bond over music. Over the years, as my sister and I have gone to a couple of concerts back home together, our tastes have grown to overlap more.
This is how I watched her music to evolve from Mayday Parade to Jack’s Mannequin to Lido.
Sometimes she napped. When she was awake, however, she’d often chatter about her life and criticize my driving.
Before I started my first day of college, I had a few weeks when my sister started school and I was just at home, lounging and doing very little. Half of the days, I woke up to drive her to school partly so that my parents didn’t have to, but partly because I was about to leave for months and wanted to spend a bit more time with my sister.
Our car rides took on a slightly different tone. I felt like a mother dropping her daughter off at school. The car ride back home felt quieter and more empty, though I pumped it full of my music.
I had the chance to do this a few times, when I came back that winter break – my sister had one week of school left – and in the fall of my second year of college and his junior year of high school. We made a treat out of it a few times, going through the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A for chicken biscuits, hash browns and iced coffees.
Sometime during the school year, while I was away at college, she got her driver’s license and started driving herself to school. And while she seemed to grow up and get more mature when I saw her every few months, her getting her driver’s license was sort of a wake up call for me about how now, she was no longer dependent on myself or my parents and could now get around by herself, similarly to how I felt a few years ago.
Still, because our family only has two cars, I would still drive her to school sometimes so that I could use the car during the day, and thus the tradition continued, but less frequently.
Last week I was home for spring break, and I sent my sister to school one final time. The next time I would be back in Atlanta would be for her graduation, and while I am excited for her to grow up and move on, it’s still an incredibly bittersweet feeling putting this tradition to rest.
I woke up at 6:30, drove her to Chick-fil-A and pointed out while we were in the parking lot that this would be our final ride (or sorts). We sort of looked at each other, already feeling a bit nostalgic.