You can Drive, 55!

Ok that title may eek my age just a bit, as do famous car scenes from Ferris Bueller and License to Drive….(always a sucker for the Corey Haim and Corey Feldman duo!)  The idea of certain rites of passage have come to mind lately as I continue to age.  Blame it on a bday up and coming, with 40 looming ahead next year, or maybe it is simply watching and observing that has me thinking.  At any rate, this idea of driving has me not in the passenger seat, nor back seat driving ( I always hated that!).  The topic brings me front and center, with seat belt on, ready to tackle the concept.

I remember when I was a kid and the idea of driving a car seemed so foreign to me.  I could not imagine someone getting in this beast of a car and traveling with effortless ease to a certain destination.  They made it look so easy.  I laugh because my parents and brothers would often remark that I could not even direct a push mower in a straight line, much less the rider lawn mower.  Although, in hindsight, my deficit did make for some interesting lawn patterns…   I watched and marveled at how adults and many young people handled this machine, one that appeared so daunting to me, with never so much as a thought.  I vowed I would never own one, never step behind the wheel, and certainly never  have the need for such vehicle.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

Most young people can begin driving at the tender age of 14, honestly pretty young, compared to many countries whose 14-year-old “rites” include celebrations in coming of age, naming ceremonies, vision quests, and the list continues.  While our brothers and sisters in foreign lands experience something which ties them closer to family and faith, we allow our teenagers an opportunity to escape those clutches we call family.  Hmmmm, maybe there is something in that?

I watch my 2 children, growing fast, hankering for independence, a chance to strike out more and more on their own.  While I welcome some “mom alone time”, I have to admit a certain lump in my throat as I watch them head out together to the pool.  One so happy on his bike, the other gladly aboard his scooter.  They know not the tears I choke back, watching them, realizing my “mommy” moments are rapidly flying.  Both have already commented how they cannot wait to get their own car, to be free.  Uh, not if I can help it.

So, I watch the teens around me and the way they handle this privilege.  Oddly, they do not look at it as a privilege, but a right or a rite, if you will.  Speeding down main street, music blaring, heads and body  parts hanging out the windows, they display none of the fear which I am sure their parents feel at times.  A burning desire to escape the bonds which they find repressing, the times away just hanging out grow longer and more frequent.  Escape from what, I wonder?

Are they escaping that childhood in favor of something more fun-more free?  How many adults would like to take them aside and tell them to embrace these moments as they are too fleeting.  Are they running from a home which has become unbearable for whatever reason?  In that, have we somehow lost the concept of family, allowing it to become something antiquated and unattainable?  Are they then escaping a house, in search of a community that embraces their individuality?

Maybe I am over-thinking this.  Maybe it is nothing more than an appropriate moment in our lives which must take place so the next generation is prepared to step up to the plate.  My gut tells me there is something more, though  I have to admit that when I began driving, I was terrified to make a mistake-right hand turns were a cinch, but the lefties threw me for a loop.  The interstate was a foreign land that promised too fast traffic and certain death.  The largest town from mine was about an hour away, with an expanse of streets and exits that was sure to confuse me.

I learned, we all do.  I gained confidence and this driving gig required as little thought as breathing.  Now I have to admit my disregard for many of the safety measures I once observed so carefully.  It was not until a couple of years ago when a friend mentioned to me, “put on your seat belt, I don’t want you hurt.”  Hmmm, I had never really thought about it, my safety and confidence in my own skills never motivated me to think that I would be anything other than safe while I was in a car.  After all, I had dodged ice storms, torrential rains, wind, and country roads more times than I could count.  What was the matter with traveling from here to there unstrapped.  Now clicking the buckle is a natural and I will not move an inch until my boys are safe.

I admit a bit sheepishly that with the constant of travel for me, I have become more than a little lax in what I do while driving.  There was a time I checked all mirrors, tuned the station, and double checked the windshield wiper before starting on my journey.  Alas, I now check my phone, watch for messages coming in, plug-in my Spotify- making sure that I have the right tunes for the 1/2 hour trip to my office.  I have been known to move the rear view mirror and apply my make up if running late.  Yes, I have even texted more times than I should admit and have used vocal text in lieu of typing messages.  I have taken this privilege for granted, never realizing the life altering impact my actions could have on someone else, much less me and my family.  Some may read this and admonish me for such behavior, they would be right in doing so—I am beginning to tailor my habits towards more consideration of others’ needs versus my own perceived ones.

Then I think of my parents.  They are getting on in years, in their 60’s and 70’s, respectively.   I remember the ease with which they traveled, keeping us safe, never anticipating anything befalling us.  It never did.  Now, there are activities my children have which my mother will not attend because it may put her on the road in the dark.  There is a part of me rankled at what I believe is an excuse to chill at home.  Then again, maybe it is a true fear, one that she would rather not express often, one that limits what she is able to do.  I watch my father, his apparent disregard for stop signs, speed limits, and those around him.  Maybe it is not disregard, but an inability to pay attention to that many stimuli at once.  This person, who I have watched juggle strenuous work for decades reveals a deficit that elicits laughter and mockery from family, yet also limits what he can do.  That privilege earned so long ago, which allowed them to escape, now wanes and entraps them once again.  Whoa, deep thought there.  The older my parents become, the less likely they will be to hop in the car and head out for no particular reason.  Interesting paradox, that as I come of my age, I crave moments when I am alone in the car, radio blaring, singing at the top of my lungs.  It is a stress reliever a source of decompression from work, home, or thought.  An escape from something I have allowed to become mundane?  Maybe.

These rites, seemingly unimportant in the moment, have more impact than we believe.  What if we treated this right with the reverent attitude that comes not of owning the newest wheels in town, but a moment of honor and responsibility?  Could it be a moment where our kiddos experience their own metaphorical vision quest?

Not having the next thought appear, I will put down the pen on this one.  Until the obsession to write strikes again,  I bid you be careful and watchful out there…

Shalom dear ones.




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