Back when the drinking age in Louisiana was still 18, I was 18. I remember my then-best friend Jennifer and I driving all around Shreveport, as teenagers will, flirting with all the cute boys in the passing cars and peeling out from stoplights.
Driving around the same streets yesterday gave me cause to pause and relive some of those days. The city has changed a bit, certainly grown in some areas and withered in others, and some streets are as manicured as always while others have even more green poking through the cracks in the sidewalks and even in the tar patches on the road. Many of the crepe myrtles remain the same, if they are taller. Many of the old oaks are still there, covering even more of the four laned drives with their shade.
My old house has a red front door where it used to be an off-white. The shutters are green where before there were none. The large grandfather graybeard that was weeping in the front yard -- the one I used to climb and swing from as a kid -- is now a memory and not even a stump remains behind. But that particular street is as inviting as always, being my home.
It reminded me of Jennifer, ironically, not my grandparents or even my dad, who lays in a hospital bed barely breathing, mostly unawares of his surroundings, now unresponsive to anyone's voice.
Jennifer used to have this Toyota Camry, baby blue, that we would fly around the streets in. We would sing to the radio and "car dance" little routines we made up to various songs. In this particular memory, I remember going through the drive through daquiri store and drinking our daquiris, giggling ourselves more tipsy than the alcohol ever could, singing our hearts out, heading for my house so I could get some clothes to stay over at her house.
I remember this clearly because I felt I had "pulled one over" on my strict Southern Baptist grandmother, as I had been drinking in the car before we got there and she never said a word about it. I never did either, and she died with me still not knowing if she ever knew (and I'm sure would've or did have an opinion) about that particular instance. Well, the rest of the story quickly dissolves into a nighmare of a sorts, with an impromptu party getting way out of control and not a single soul being sober enough to remember it the same way, but that's for another day.
Let me go back to the drive-thru daquiri store.
These Louisiana staples are stores where you do, indeed, drive through, and get an alcohol -laden frozen beverage in a styrofoam cup with a lid. But what about open container laws?, you ask. Louisiana has them. The drinks are handed to you, the buyer, sealed with a straw taped horizontally over the hole in the lid, and the tape extending down over the lid onto the cup on both sides, so that the straw and lid are effectively taped to the cup. Ergo, closed container, and it's legal. Purchasers are on a code of honor to leave it in that configuration until they are not driving anymore.
Yeah, right. How many adults do you think adhere to that, let alone teenagers? But I digress....
So there we are, Jennifer with her peach daquiri and me with my white russian, heading back to my house. It was probably the single most illegal thing I've ever done. Wait, no... no, that may have to go to driving 135+ on I-30 that one time.... Oh, nevermind. But maybe it was breaking the open container laws, or maybe it was being 18 and in the summer after my high school graduation and maybe it was being in between a child and an adult and maybe I was celebrating one of the only remaining states that allowed 18 year olds to drink, even now I'm not sure what it was. But it was hot, and we were crusing in that Camry with the windows down late that afternoon, preparing for the summer of our lives, drinking our drinks from plain white styrofoam cups and to hell with the consequences.
Fortunately, the consequences didn't come while driving. Arguably, it would take a real featherweight to get much effect at all off of one of those daquiris. But I'm glad to see they're still around. Now all I need is to locate Jennifer again, and we could have ourselves another party. While I am watching my "home" dissolve into surreal blends of color and memories of what was and what will never be again, I wish I could cling for one last time to my childhood, just to know it was all real. Now the only place I can go to find someone who shared in my youth is the cemetary. I feel too young for this truth.