I was fifteen, almost sixteen, years old and had my learning permit to drive. My mom was the only one to really let me drive with her. I think I was responsible for most of her gray hair appearing around that time. My dad never let anyone else drive (I'm guessing that's where I get most of my control issues). He never had a lot of hair, so I figure it was partly a protect-what-ya-got move on his part.
I remember the Blue Dodge Ram van with the short wheel base. I learned to drive in that thing. Parallel parking on our driveway was my favorite lesson. My mom sitting in the passenger seat reading or crocheting while I maneuvered around the strategically placed rocks...back and forth...an hour at a time. Quality time...lol.
I don't even remember where my mom and I were headed that day. But for the first time ever, mom said, "Why don't you drive it down and meet me at the end of the driveway?" I was thrilled! Our driveway is all of 100 feet long, if that. But to me, it was a fabulous step toward getting the all-important drivers license. I was smiling so much my face hurt and my heart was racing. I checked all the mirrors and positioned everything just right for my journey.
When I got to the end of the driveway, I found my mom standing at the mailbox...not with the proud smile I had imagined...she was crying. And not a nice single-little-tear-rolling-down-her-cheek kind of cry. An all-out red face, snot nose, chest heaving cry. "You're so grown up," she managed through her tears as she climbed into the passenger seat. "I'm sorry?" was all I could figure to say, even though it didn't sound quite right.
Initially, I was irritated that she had ruined my moment of glory. But then I started to laugh. I mean, really, how could I not laugh? The whole situation was just ridiculous. But yesterday, nineteen years later, it was suddenly not so funny.
We had our tray of McDonald's best and were looking for a table when Sam announced he wanted to sit at the little counter with the bar stools. I told him I didn't want to sit on a bar stool because they're made of metal and not comfortable. He still insisted. So we compromised and he sat at the counter and we sat at a booth across teh aisle. This is the point in the story where we would normally have Sam crying, "But I want YOU to sit WITH ME," and raising holy hell while we wilted in embarassment. But not this time. This time, he looked up at me too cheerfully and said, "OK."
And as I sat looking at his back while he munched his cheeseburger and fries, I thought of my mom standing at the end of the driveway and crying. I wonder how many more times during my life she quietly cried as I took small steps away from her. I wonder what it was about that day on the driveway that she finally felt free to let me see. But most of all I wonder how she did it. Because it's not as easy as it sounds. Nor is it ridiculous or funny.
Yesterday Steve quietly said, "Do you feel like we've been dissed somehow?" as we both looked over at Sam sitting on that bar stool by himself. "Yeah," I giggled.
But today I realize...we're all just growing up.