I slide the small, plastic card across the counter, and the lady on the other side hands me a new one, still warm from the printer.
I look down at my smiling face, hair eschew, quality grainy, watermarked gold stars arching across my forehead.
“Thank you,” I say.
“Next,” she bawled.
And I walk out of the DMV, Alaska drivers license in hand.
That was yesterday. Today I drove the KNOM truck through the unpaved potholes of Nome for the first time, my new license bouncing in my pocket, hearing my parents’ voices from the week before, telling me they had watched a documentary of Alaska on Netflix, and I had no business driving in that state. I should have seen the caribou jumping straight into the cars, they said. In fact, it’s best if I just stay indoors, or better yet, return home to Tennessee.
It’s strange. I had never thought much about my drivers license, but I had always felt a small swell of pride whenever I pulled out my Tennessee card, especially when in another state. With its sunny yellow background and my 16-year-old smile, it was a cheerful reminder of my roots, anchored by that familiar, sturdy row of letters: T-e-n-n-e-s-s-e-e.
I’ve lived in Alabama, California, and England, but this is the first time I’ve changed my license. With its blues and purples, the Alaska version is a bit of a downer. But since arriving, I’ve noticed a permanent hue of lavender hangs and hints over Alaska, suggesting an edge of…what…grace?
I’ll take it as a good driving omen. Maybe that will comfort my parents.
P.S. When writing this blog post, I opened an email from my mother reading: “BEEEEEEEEEEEE Careful driving—-you are in a completely different terrain and weather. Do not take chances!!!” If Tennessee can’t anchor me, she will.
P.S.S. Yes, I had my license reissued when I was 18 or 21 or whatever age you do that. They just kept my 16-year-old picture.