Learning to Fly

Last night Todd and I were in the woodshop building something for his job when the phone rang.  It was our nephew Cayden.  He’s 15 now, and he texts me the vine videos he creates for his 1,000+ followers on there.  (I try not to be jealous.  He produces 6 second videos.  I produced a whole damn novel.  He gets 1,000+ followers for what takes him a half hour to produce.  It took me five years to write that book!  Whatever, I am proud of him.)

“I had my test for my learner’s permit today,” he said into the phone.

“Oh yeah!  It slipped my mind!  How’d it go?” I asked.

“I got 19 out of 20 right,” he said.  I could hear the smile in his voice.

I whooped in response.  “So, have you been out driving yet?”

“Yeah, I drove us to….” Somewhere, I didn’t catch where he drove.

“Are you nervous driving?” I asked..

“Yeah, it’s weird,” he replied.

“Rule of thumb is, don’t go any faster than you want to hit something.  The rest will fall into place and you won’t be so nervous anymore.  When you come down next, I’ll teach you how to drive a stick shift.  They’ll take your dude card away if you don’t know how to drive a stick.”

“Sounds good.”

I told him the story about when my Mom was teaching me how to drive.  She drove a van for work.  She ran deliveries for my Dad’s machine shop.  The van didn’t have windows along the sides of the cargo area, just in the way back on the doors.  It was boxy.  I felt like I couldn’t adequately see around me.  We took the long way home so I could drive more.  We went north on route 83 though Ellington, and then eventually into Somers where we lived.  It was 5 something in the afternoon.  The speed limit was 45.  I gripped the wheel and edged us along at 25 miles per hour.  I couldn’t see the line of cars behind us until Mom suggested that we get into the right lane at the traffic light.  Dozens of cars streamed by, honking their horns and flipping me off.  My Mom stuck her head out the window, in hollered in her thick Polish accent.

“Hey, we have a student driver in here.”

I slunk down in my seat, mortified.  But I learned to drive.  And I love to drive, almost as much as Mom did. 

Cayden laughed when I told him.  “It’s OK to be nervous,” I said.  “It means that you are taking it seriously and you’re paying attention.   You’ll be great at it.”

My nieces and nephews are getting older.  A few are in college, a few more are looking at colleges.  They are driving.  They are becoming adults.  I remember one Monday morning I was at my brother Kaz’s house.  The window of their guest room looks out over the driveway.  I stood at the window and watched his oldest, Maggie, get behind the wheel, fasten her seatbelt, and pull out of the driveway on her way to school.  There was another time when I was at my sister’s house and watched her second oldest pull into the driveway, music blaring, with her girlfriends in the car with her.  I remember those days of feeling so free, riding around with my friends and the music loud.  Commuting to school, feeling so grown up.  Going out on an errand for Mom and purposely taking the long way home so I could drive just a little bit longer.  Then having her ask “You were gone over an hour, where did you go?” But she knew I took the long way.  Mom never turned around when she made a wrong turn. “Let’s see where this goes” she’d say.  She liked the long way too.

I still like taking the long way home.  Just to drive a little bit longer. I hope Cayden will too.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 03.17.16

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