b ~ At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at time, the Fool,


One weekend, when they both needed a break from studying, Richard
drove Subhash to an empty parking lot on campus, teaching him to shift
gears so that Subhash could apply for a driver’s license, and borrow
the car when he needed to.

When Richard decided Subhash was ready, he let him take the car
through town, navigating him toward Port Judith, the corner of Rhode
Island that abutted no land. It was a thrill to maneuver the car,
slowing down for the odd traffic light and then accelerating again on
the abandoned seaside road.  ~from “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Have you ever learned to drive a stick shift? If so, do you remember
the stops and starts and the stall outs? Can you still recall how
violently the car would shudder and shake?  The way you thought you
would never get it. And then one day after having practiced and
practiced with several patient adults taking turns riding in the
passenger seat—it just clicked. I can still conjure up an image of the
street I was driving on when I shifted up and realized I hadn’t
watched my hand do it. And now it feels like second nature. I miss
that little red Simon car, I cried when I had to sell that little
Civic hatchback to the garage for a paltry $200.

Things really do come full circle. We have another red(ish) car,
though a little larger this time round, and now it’s T’s turn to be
behind the wheel. The other night after his Driver’s Ed class, one of
his friends got into the driver’s seat of their truck and stalled it.
There were whoops and hollers from the kids in the crowd and I felt
humiliated for the driver (having known him since he was a
first-grader). But it was a solidarity cheer, demonstrating to the
driver and many the passers-by that it was a ritual and a rite of
passage. As difficult and challenging as these steps may be, they’re
just easier to do when you’ve got your own cheering section.

Back in the day, Drivers Ed was a big deal for me. It was the first
time I fell in love. Amidst the crash test dummies, the practice tests
and the films that are meant to shock you into being a good driver I
fell hard for a boy who lived in my grandmother’s neighborhood. Though
we didn’t really know each other, his older brother and my uncle were
friends. Because of this long-standing relationship and promises that
the elders would be responsible for us, I was able to see my first
concert. The four of us stood on our folding chairs and crooned along
with Bono, we sang words that came up from the depths of us. There is
nothing as memorable as a stadium filled with people singing along
with the band. It’s a communal, almost spiritual, experience. I saw U2
this way and sometime later in my 20’s Billy Joel and Elton John.
Somewhere I’ve got the t-shirts, tucked away with the memorabilia that
proves to the world that you were young– once upon a time.

As a parent you can anticipate first teeth, first steps, first day of
school. You talk endlessly about your baby’s future. Imagining them
driving, dating; getting married, having children of their own. It’s
easy to talk about because it’s in the abstract. But then one day it’s
here. Your child, (yes, your child) is behind the wheel of a car. A
car. On the road. With other drivers. It doesn’t seem possible,
because you still imagine them playing with cars and trains and
building train tracks on the floor in their bedroom. It feels like
just yesterday you were a girl memorizing a boy’s profile as you both
tried to pay attention to the teacher discuss the rules of the road.

But in the present tense, in today’s world, you are the parent. And as
scary as it might be to admit, you know that these “firsts” are good,
albeit a little scary. The mean there will be a second, third and
fourth to follow. They mean we are brave and ready to undertake
anything thrown our way. The braveness is like a superhero cape; it
makes it easier to be a fool, albeit to feel a little ridiculous. No
one said learning to drive or falling in love would leave us without
marks or scars. They show we were there, they are our souvenirs for
the future.

About andi

Writer, editor, wrangler of small boys and dogs.

One comment

  1. It’s shocking, isn’t it? How did that little red-headed baby grow up so fast (and so tall!)? You should be very very proud of the terrific young man you’ve raised…

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