Two Dollars in the Night

One night, somewhere between Christmas and New Years, my mother, father, and I drove 122 miles in a New England snowstorm.

It was sometime in the last century. Maybe the same year Mother Teresa died.

We were in a red Ford station wagon heading home from Massachusetts to Maine on a big, dark, lonely night.

I-95 North was empty. Except for snow plows. Large, lumbering, rumbling snow plows with enormous mouths. An altogether different species than a station wagon inching home in darkness.

I sat in the backseat. Feet in a little puddle of melting snow and road salt. And I remember thinking, ‘The world is inside tonight.’ Inside where it belongs. Padding around the kitchen. Safely behind curtains.

And we’re on the outside. In snow and road salt. At a distance and apart from the world.

“Can you get two dollars out?” My mother passed me her wallet. The New Hampshire tollbooth was a mile away. And she was already braking for it. Tap-tap, then one long hold on the pedal.

We pulled up to the one open booth. My mother rolled down her window. Started to hand over two dollars.

The tollbooth agent waved her away. “They paid for you.” He nodded his head towards a set of taillights shrinking in the distance.

I hadn’t seen another car out on the road with us.

“Well. Wow. I didn’t even know they were there.” My mother paused. “Here.” She handed our two dollars to the agent. “For the next car.” Which we couldn’t see. But knew would come.

And we drove off into the snow. Having been given a two dollar reminder that even if we can’t see each other, as Mother Teresa would say, we do “belong to each other.”

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