We made a very quick, long overdue trip to Arlington to see my parents this weekend. The last time we saw them was at Christmas when we were all together at my sister’s house in New Jersey. The kids have been missing their grandparents. As for the grandparents? When I talked to my dad over the phone a few weeks ago, he said in a forlorn little voice, “So…you’re not going to visit us anymore?”
We had a lot of catching up to do. My oldest son is about to turn 15 in a couple of weeks and so at the top of the list of discussion topics was the astonishing fact that the state of Virginia would be prepared to give this baby a learner’s permit a mere six months after his 15th birthday.
I’ve written before about the conversation I had with my son a couple years ago when he was about to turn 13 and was already then excitedly musing about the fact that he could legally get his learner’s permit in less than three years.
Obviously, I couldn’t shirk my moral responsibility and duty as his mother to disabuse him of the notion that this was a given. “Killjoy,” “Wet Dishrag,” and “Party Pooper” happen to be my middle names. This is why I get paid the big bucks after all.
“It’s not just about how old you are,” I replied. “We would have to see that you were really ready for the responsibility of driving. We’d want to make sure that you were mature enough to handle that responsibility.”
I watched the light die in his eyes. He was silent for a moment as he pondered my words and performed some mental calculations before coming to an unwelcome conclusion, “If T (his sister who was then 7) is driving me around when she‘s fifteen and a half, I’m going to be really, really mad!”
The fact that his brother may soon be driving has apparently been weighing as heavily on my 12 year old son’s mind as it has on mine.
“N. will be learning to drive soon,” he said to me one day as I was ferrying him back home from some activity. “That’s a pretty scary thought…Can we make sure he doesn’t drive with me in the car until he’s at least 18?”
I reported this conversation to my dad and we chuckled about it. Our conversation reminded me of the day my mother finally got her driver’s license at the age of 50 after years of trying. She never actually failed the test, she just lost her nerve every time she was about to take it. It wasn’t her fault. Every time she would screw up the courage to start learning how to drive, she would get into a serious car accident. I don’t even think she was driving the car any of the times that it happened. It was just extraordinarily bad luck and timing.
When she finally came back from the DMV clutching her brand new driver’s license, she was giddy with triumph.
“You got it! That’s amazing, Mom! Tell me all about it!”
“Well, the man told me to drive around the block and so I did. But THEN, he told me to do a U-turn! I said, ‘WHAAAAAAAAAT?! I don’t know how to do a U-turn!!'”
“Uh-oh…So then what happened?”
“He reached over and turned the wheel for me,” she replied as if this should be perfectly obvious.
Here’s where the story got confusing. Who pulls a stunt like that and then actually passes the test and gets her license? My mom. That’s who.
“And that’s when I knew she had magical powers!” I said to my dad, “I mean I’d always suspected it, of course, and I knew she could get people to do whatever she wanted them to, but that was definitive proof that she really is some kind of a witch.”
To this day, I have a recurring nightmare in which I find myself in a car with my mother at the wheel. But to her credit, the day she got her license was the last day my mother ever drove a car. It was enough that she had slain the dragon. The best witches know their limits.