I’m weeding the garden after dinner when my youngest comes out of the house with the car keys in one hand and her driver’s permit in the other. I’m leaving, she says, smiling at me. Why don’t I come, too, I offer, since that would make her driving legal.
She drives around the nearly empty town, and then up to the high school where she practices the turn known as the K turn in every state — except Vermont, which calls it the Vermont turn. Saturday night, and no one is out. The streets are empty.
She wants to drive to San Diego. We’re both laughing, nearly giddy in that parking lot, me wearing my knitted hat as it’s darn cold for June, and she’s teasing me about that, too.
On this Father’s Day morning, I woke thinking about when I learned to drive, all those hours of driving with my father, on roads all around New Hampshire, those uncountable hours and effort and care that go into parenting.
My older daughter, infuriated, asked me the other day, What is the point of all this, any way? — That same, aching existential, human question. I’m not offering my daughter any answers; those are hers to seek and glean. Thirty years older than her, I’m still wrestling with that question.
In the meantime, while I’m now in the passenger seat, I’m keeping a wary eye, offering a steady stream of advice about jaywalkers, kids on bikes, pickup trucks who run stop signs, don’t speed, keep your hands on the wheel, use your turn signals, assume other drivers are impaired — be careful!
She looks at me from the edges of her eyes, loving the driver’s seat. Just loving it. I got this, she assures me.
Silently, I’m praying she’ll someday teach her own daughter or son to drive. Despite my own terror at switching seats, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, just as all those years ago, I wouldn’t have traded those conversations with my father.