mixed-up monday: behind the wheel

on 08-13-2012

My daughter will take her road test this Friday. Skye’s been driving up a storm since she turned 16 in February and already aced the driver ed test, so this is her final frontier.


The “Say what?!” jolt I used to feel when I’d glance over from the passenger seat and see her behind the wheel? Already fading. The girl can drive,  and she may even be the smoothest parallel parker I know.


The first few times we ventured out together last winter, that jolt did manage to shake a memory particle loose.  I remembered my mom taking 15 year-old me for a practice run.  For the very first time since my parents’ decade-old divorce, I heard her mutter, “I wish your father was here.” She continued on about how he was a driver ed teacher so he should be the one teaching me to drive, but it was the wish part that caught me off guard.


I remember being preoccupied with trying not to crash our  5-speed Chrysler Laser into a headstone. It was a game of survival, navigating through the winding “practice roads”  of the cemetery next to my house as  the Pointer Sisters “Jump for My Love” played in the background — yes, almost as potentially traumatic as my mom’s comment for a  rock ‘n roll girl like me .


When we were safely parked next to my favorite reading tree {when you live next to a cemetery, reading in a massive, leafy tree that just happens to be surrounded by graves doesn’t seem creepy}, I looked over to see if she was OK. And I think she really was — not the “I don’t my girls to worry about me”  kind of OK, but OK, OK. She was buoyant, even. I was driving. She was teaching me. And, our sense of humors were intact.


When my parents split of in the mid-1970s,  divorce was still unusual. There weren’t a lot of single parent role models around, but somehow my mom always made being a mom seem effortless — even when she was working 6 days a week or trying to figure out what to do with a two daughters who were figuring things out.


My mom’s recent shout out to the positive side of  being a single parent  didn’t appear in THE NEW YORK TIMES like Katie Roiphie’s  In Defense of Single Motherhood, but the lines below that she wrote for her 50th High School reunion program made me want to be sure that I give my kids the same sense of being present and joyful. I want them to know how much I  love being their mom, even when things get tough.


“Contrary to often heard negative comments, I found being a single parent to be a very uplifting and satisfying experience. My daughters and I formed a strong bond surrounded by supportive family and friends. We have very fond memories of these years together.”                                                                       


Ultimately, I have Skye to thank. If she was a typical new driver, my mind wouldn’t have had the luxury of wandering into the past “post-jolt.”  It may have been a bittersweet memory, but it was magical to conjure up my mom’s inherent grace and positive outlook,  irrepressible even when she was white-knuckled on a cemetery road with me behind the wheel.


Click on the Chrysler Laser below to check out this week’s “behind the wheel” playlist. And cheers to the road ahead, Skye!

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