Rite of Passage

Alyssa is the proud and happy owner of a freshly minted Michigan Driver’s license. There are any number of restrictions until she is seventeen, but the fact remains that one of my main uses to my teenage darling is now gone. My chauffeur’s hat has been hung up for good. I have worn it for 22 years and imagine already that I will miss it a bit. It’s not that I always loved carting children to and fro. It often caused a lot of stress since my chosen career kicks into high gear around 3 p.m. and stops at 7 or 8 so it was often not possible to provide rides after school. I patch-quilted transportation as best I could, pressing their dad into service, begging other moms, asking Tom—who worked construction and was often home in time for kid carting—or sometimes flat out paying industrious drivers young and old who seemed trustworthy.

So having all that disappear should be a giant relief—-right?

Yes, in exactly the same way that delivering your last child to the front door of kindergarten is a relief. Which is to say——-NOOOOOOO!!! Stop the world I want to get off. Where did the years go? Wasn’t I at the hospital giving birth to you YESTERDAY? If I’m not full time mommy anymore who am I? If I don’t have to build my days and weeks around getting you where you need to be what will I do? If my life morphs into being just about ME will it be enough? Can I fill the hours? Do I WANT to have so very many hours to fill?


This brings to mind the classic mom phrase “I hope one day your children will treat you the way you have treated me so you will know how it feels.” My mom never uttered that exact phrase but the implication was still there—that you really only understand and APPRECIATE your parents when you become one. When I left for college I literally never looked back. I couldn’t wait to be gone—start my new life—find my real friends– and I acted as if I had sprung fully formed from the ground. My parents no longer existed for me. I had experienced no childhood trauma, had not been neglected nor abandoned, harbored no particular animosity—I was just DONE. Done being someone’s kid, done being accountable, done feeling controlled in any way. If getting Franny to leave the nest has been a challenge, Alyssa will be the polar opposite. She will leave and never return. She is already chomping at the bit to start her life and confessed just today that she feels like a caged bird. I can’t wait to see her soar. I will also be crying buckets.

She has been “gifted” my mother’s 1996 Chevy Lumina. It is not, she informs me, in the category of “cool old car” which apparently includes equally ancient Oldsmobiles of the boxy shape. Her car is from the melted jelly bean era of car design with velour interior and exterior rust. Since I had no wheels until college graduation day (a stop-a-clock-ugly orange Olds with beige vinyl seats that my dad proudly delivered to my dorm’s circle drive where I tried to look grateful instead of mortified), I have little sympathy. Nobody had cars as high school sophomores in my day. My best friend was reminding me this week how I yelled at her a decade ago for getting her teenagers cars, calling her an overindulgent parent, warning against raising spoiled, entitled brats. She had patiently explained that the world had changed since we were kids, that teens now had so many different places to be in a day that chauffeuring them was a full time job and most parents of both genders already had ones they were paid to do! She, of course, was right. But I still wish all my daughter’s friends weren’t driving late model SUVs passed on by a parent. Personally I am far happier knowing that if she hits something in this big old rusty boat there will be little lost.

And even getting her that was a challenge. My mom gave it to me when she stopped driving at around age 90. I drove it for a while and then passed it to Franny who needed a car to get to school. She has driven it ever since and because it is so old and she works nights, she has been ticketed no fewer than three times for absolute bullshit infractions. The local police chief finally admitted to me that new cops on the midnight shift HAVE to write tickets to prove they are not eating donuts and hiding behind the public works building all night. He also said most old cars are driven by the poor and poor people cruising in an affluent neighborhood in the wee hours is a gargantuan red flag. Great. A whole new category—driving while poor. Still, when I suggested passing the Lumina on to Alyssa and getting herself something newer (with a big boost from an insurance policy my dad took out in her name at birth) she refused. She loved her car. She was used to her car. If it wasn’t a real gift I should’ve told her so. I was now Indian Giving, etc. etc. etc. I let it ride for a few weeks then finally said “Somebody in this family is getting a new-ish car. Do you want it to be you or your baby sister?” Never underestimate the power of sibling rivalry. Within days she was the proud owner of an ADORABLE 2013 VW bug which she has christened June. She tends this thing to within an inch of its life—washing, detailing, wiping, cleaning, buying accessories and air fresheners. She offers to drive any time we go anywhere and has even carted work friends out for meals. She loves beauty more than any human being I know and currently has very little of it in her life, so this car is truly her pride and joy and I am so happy for her.

So now everybody has wheels and I am free. Yippee? Oops—not so fast. Daughter #2 has just locked herself out and needs rescuing. I will be driving over barefoot in jammies to bring the extra key. She will apologize profusely and ask if I’m mad and try to explain in detail how it happened. I will assure her it’s ok and smile on the inside that she needed me for one more day. I will now be like the perpetual Broadway understudy. Well trained and fully prepared to step in at a moment’s notice to ward off disaster but also resigned to the fact that my performances will be few and far between. It’s ok. Creates some space to audition for other roles. Our goal is to raise independent people. Our goal is to raise independent people. Our goal is to raise independent people.

I think I have accomplished the goal—sniff.


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