Eating My Dust
Monday, September 17, 2012 • 7:44am
My car drove off and left me standing alone in the driveway.
On one hand, I was delighted that I didn’t have to drive. On the other hand, my son was behind the wheel. He just got his license.
This will no doubt introduce a whole new group of useful expressions to my parental repertoire: Remember to fill it up. Be home by 11. Where did this ding come from?
I remember very well when I earned my driver’s license. I went for my driver’s test as soon as I legally could: on my birthday. My mom accompanied me and we arrived at the DMV first thing in the morning when the doors opened and stood in line.
An hour later I was sweating out parallel parking with a dour stranger from the DMV in the car. His name was Glenn Miller. It was labeled on the clipboard holding my official sign-off sheet.
I didn’t ask Mr. Miller if people confused him with the famous dead bandleader. I am sure he appreciated my restraint; because he checked all the items on the sheet as I coarsely maneuvered through 3-point turns, yield signs, and a few nervous pedestrians crossing the street.
I drove home with a grin I could barely contain. My mom was still with me and I couldn’t wait to boot her out of the car to explore my newfound freedom.
Of course, I couldn’t really boot her out. It was, after all, her car. So I offered to run to the store and pick up some dinner groceries for her. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse.
And so, on a hot summer day that also happened to be a milestone teenage birthday, I dropped down my mirrored aviator shades and headed out alone behind the wheel to the local A&P. I never looked back.
I left my mom standing in the driveway. And until now, I didn’t really know how she felt.
“What’s the matter?” my son asks.
We have just returned from his own successful driving test. He was a bit intimidated by the process, but I gave him my best experiential DMV advice: “If the examiner’s name is Glenn Miller, don’t say anything.“
He passed easily. He is a good driver. His examiner, Gwen Miller, told me so when she got out of the car with his examination sheet. I don’t know if that was her name, but clearly my son impressed her with his driving skills.
And now he anxiously wants to run an errand. Without me.
“What’s the matter?” he asks again, gently relieving the key from my hesitant hand.
I don’t even know where to start. I am proud of you? I am nervous? I just got off the phone with the insurance agent?
But here is what I remember. There is no better feeling than being a teenager and honking your horn from the driveway of a jealous friend who cannot yet drive. Except being seen driving around town in a Chevy Impala with the windows rolled down and Led Zeppelin blasting from the radio.
Fortunately, taking the long way to the grocery store, I was able to do both.
I even stopped by the Dairy Queen where there were parking spaces right in front so I didn’t have to demonstrate my questionable skills at parallel parking in plain sight of the group of long-legged girls in short shorts and halter-tops who I hoped to impress.
Looking at it now through my rear view mirror, I should have known it would take a lot more than parallel parking and loud music to impress girls. But I didn’t know that then. For the moment I was cool. I could drive!
I drove other places too, just because I could.
I realized pretty quickly that I would have to start paying attention to things like street signs and freeway off ramp markings and the cryptic directions offered by gas station attendants.
I suddenly understood why we studied maps in fifth grade, even though I had no intention of driving east to Europe. Which ever way east was.
When I finally found my way home my grim-faced mom wanted to know why I had been gone so long and why the car was so low on gas and where the groceries were.
Now my son is playing with my car key, twirling it around the key ring waiting for me to say something. He is wearing sunglasses.
How do you say, I trust you, but I was a teenager once too?
“Please be careful,” I say.
This is exactly what my mom said to me when I left her standing alone in the driveway. When I returned she said other things too.
But for me, right now, I just want my son to return. Safe and happy.