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 yells.
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.
And I shook my head, hearing my parents telling me last week 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, come 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 license, 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.