Mister, Bunder, Kiki, and I returned home to sweet, hot Austin on Friday night and the very first thing we did – schedule a date night. Yes, we had spent the past seven days together, but considering we had spent the past seven days with all seven members of our family, we needed some serious alone time.
If any of you think traveling can be difficult, try it with an almost one and two year old.
Sitting on the balcony of The Grove, we took turns answering date night questions. Shockingly, after seven years together, we learned something new about each other. (Okay, I’m saying we learned something new, but in reality – we probably had forgotten the story our spouse recounted). Either way, Mister suggested I share my story here, and because I always listen to my dear husband’s advice … (wink, wink)
Mister’s date night question: What do you remember about learning to drive?
My answer (without pausing): The brake on the passenger side of the car because the Driver’s Ed teacher always had to use it.
Mister: By saying “always”, you’re exaggerating again and really you mean he used it once.
Me: No, I mean he used it all the time, almost every driving session. I’m not sure why I was such a terrible driver. I did grow up on a farm with plenty of opportunities to drive tractors and trucks and such. Although, come to think of it, I am the youngest, so maybe when I was 15 my three older siblings were doing the majority of the farm work, and I occupied my time dancing in the back pastures.
To make matters worse, my parents refused to take me driving. My father did once, and afterward he said he’d never do it again, because he didn’t have a brake on his side of the car, and he couldn’t stand how close I came to hitting parked cars.
I remember one driving session in particular. My instructor, Mr. V., a rather large, ominous fellow, (whom I know was a kind, good-natured teacher, but whose humor was lost on a skinny, timid, pubescent) told me I had two goals for this session. The first goal was to drive in such a way that did not require the use of his brake.
The second goal he explained while shaking brightly colored Chiclets into his hand and lining them up in front of him, “Your goal is to keep this gum in place on the dashboard. Remember to make turns slowly and cautiously. If you have to brake in the middle of a turn, you know you started the turn too fast. Let’s see how little you can move this gum.”
Now you and I both know if poor Mr. V. was pulling out all stops and using visual aids to help me, I must have been a first rate driving flunky. At the time, I didn’t realize this. I just thought, “Wow, I really underestimated Mr. V. This will be a lot of fun!”
Before I tell you what happened next, let me set the stage. We were sitting in the Driver’s Ed car in front of the high school entrance waiting for the second driver. You all remember Driver’s Ed – everyone is required to drive a certain number of hours and observe a certain number of hours. Well, Mr. V. and I sat there waiting for the second driver, but it wasn’t any driver. Oh no, on that day we awaited my long-time crush, we’ll call him Liam. I liked Liam from the moment he transferred over from the Catholic school in town in the seventh grade. (No wonder, I ended up with Irish, Catholic babies. I could never resist those blue eyes and freckles).
Now the pressure is really on – Mr. V. has two very challenging goals for me AND I have to impress my crush in the backseat. (With all those teenage hormones flying, it’s a wonder anyone survives learning how to drive).
The high school parking lot has only one entrance on the far end, so in order to return to the street, I must navigate a u-turn around the parked cars back toward the entrance.
Liam climbs into the back seat. Mr. V. motions to the Chiclets, “Remember, if you brake in the middle of a turn, you started too fast. Try to keep the gum from moving.”
I slowly pull the car into drive, listening and watching each gear, park, *clunk* reverse, *clunk* neutral, *clunk* DRIVE. I start to sweat as I proceed past the long line of parked cars and think to myself, “Why do I have to make a turn so soon? I don’t have any time to warm up!”
I accelerate as I approach the far end of the parking lot thinking “I have to speed up! Liam will think I’m lame.”
I begin to turn the car and focus my hands on the steering wheel. I feel the car’s momentum trying to pull us forward as my hands try to steer us left. All of a sudden, I know we’re going too fast, but I can’t brake or I’ll be admitting I made a mistake. Mr. V. said if you brake in the middle of a turn, you started the turn too fast. Liam’s watching, I have to impress him! “Turn the wheel! Keep turning! Come on, you can do this!”
In a blink of an eye, it’s all over. The Chiclets fly off the dashboard hitting the passenger window ricocheting to the floor. Mr. V. slams on the brake. Liam crashes into the back of my seat.
Well, our trip up north was a lot like this driving experience. We had great expectations. It sounded like fun. Surely, we could pull this off! How hard could it be! Then, before we knew it, everything careened out of control. Ah, to travel with young children…
More traveling news to come.