The Wild, Wild West (Side of Detroit and of Life)


She turns right into the middle lane and out of nowhere there is a drag race blasting up behind us and we are blocking it and I’m yelling at her to pull over and out of the way as fast as she can.

My sister called Detroit the Wild,  Wild,  West. I may have defended my hometown in the past but after spending the last few days teaching my 16 year old how to drive on Grand River,  I couldn’t agree more. There are no rules here for drivers. Or pedestrians. Or a lot of things.

The cousins are napping and she’s sprawled on the living room floor texting her friends back in Chicago. “Let’s go for a drive,” I suggest. Once again, she’s all in.  It’s just another step closer to her driver’s license with each adventure in the Honda.

As dusk settles across the Motor City, we find ourselves turning onto the side streets I grew up riding my bike on with whatever group of friends happened to be free after school. But now the windows are filled with faces that stare at us with suspicion when we creep along the street. It feels like it must be at least 5 out of 8 homes that are abandoned here in my old stomping grounds. I’m telling her to pull over near the ones that have paint splattered on them with messages of hope or art to cover the boarded windows. There’s a strange comfort in this when you find yourself in the familiar places that have change so much.

Our rusty minivan finds itself driving in a small jungle of overgrown weeds without homes and tires stacked in piles on the street. “Keep driving.” I tell her. I know exactly where we are.  We pull up alongside a familiar side yard.

“Wait, is this your old house?”

Yes, my childhood is right here.

Her childhood is slipping through my fingers.

Birthday number 17 is 6 weeks away. How can this feel so real and so out of body at the same time? I’m looking at the trees we climbed and the swings we molded ourselves to on the summer days of old.  Looking over to the driver’s seat and my baby isn’t a baby and somehow she’s driving my car.

We  slowly move down the block while I try to cram in some more stories about all the crazy things that happened here  when a car rushes past us illegally on the left.

No rules.

“Look,” I point to a boarded up home on our left.

“Did I ever tell you about the time your grandparents and their friends boarded up a drug dealer’s house while the squatters were away for the day?”

She looks at me in disbelief. I had forgotten and it sounds crazy to me too.

Life is forever moving and I’m somehow always being dragged along in surprise. Tonight I’m just happy that I’m not alone in the whole dragging endeavor.

I’ve got my almost adult daughter by my side this week and her adorable cousins who are small and sweet and just beginning this whole process of discovery.

I’m lost and drowning in the memories when she asks if we can stop at Meijer for more cookies. It’s our vacation after all.   I shake it all away for a moment and tell her to slow down at the light.  Let’s get out of here and get our vacation snacks and find a movie to watch for the evening.

The sun must go down on the Wild Wild West for the night.   Let’s make one last stop and then some rest.    And please God, let’s get home before we find ourself in the middle of another drag race.

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