Ten LOOOONG minutes …

drving

“I’ve got it under control, mama!”
“Sure you do,” I say, ignoring the hesitation lining her voice. I gently pat her knee before stepping out of the car.

From the sidewalk I observe her. Her expression is a mix of fright and elation. Her long, slender fingers tightly grip the steering wheel while her gaze is transfixed on the parking lot, as if in an effort to block out the examiner’s presence.

Please be gentle with her, I silently pray. She’s still so young.

Ignoring the tiny drops of cold sweat slowly rolling down my sides, I watch our sturdy vehicle perform the elegant dances we practiced so often.

“Turn on your indicator,” I say under my breath. “Good, now straighten the car… Yes, you can do it.”

“She’s got it under control, I think.”
The kind voice belongs to the Asian man who looks just as nervous as I am. He is waiting for his teenage son to return.
I silently make a deal with him.
I won’t acknowledge your twitching eye, if you pretend not to see my sweat marks, my eyes say. He nods. We have an understanding. It also includes not noticing the tapping feet, the shaking hands, nor the red blotches forming on my neck, …

My daughter’s vessel leaves the parking lot. In the distance I see the indicator being turned on as the bulky car slows down at the stop sign.

Yeah, she’s got it under control, I think.

My eyes scan the road in the distance while I chitchat to the man next to me. I’m babbling, not even registering what I am saying. The man politely nods and babbles back.
I discretely check my watch. Only five minutes have gone by. They feel like eternity …

How did we get here? I wonder.
Barely one year ago, we were not thinking about our daughter driving.
We were not thinking about her independence.
We were not thinking about a boy’s house that would become our girl’s second home.
She was still so young.
We were still so clueless.

She IS still so young.
And we ARE still pretty clueless, establishing our ways as we move along.

And yet now, she needs to get this license.
What’s more, I need her to get this license.
Not only is this her ticket to freedom, it’s mine too!

Tomorrow I’ll start working again, after six long years of full time motherhood. My tall daughter needs to take over from me. She’ll be driving her little brother to soccer; she’ll be making him do his homework. She’ll run last-minute errands for milk and apples …
She needs that license!

Please be gentle with her, I pray, feeling the cold sweat stream down my sides.

One car comes back, the examiner behind its wheel, a disappointed teenage girl in the passenger seat. A father steps out of the shadows, shaking his head ever so slightly. He slides into the driver’s seat and off they go.

Another car returns. The man next to me steps up, all smiles. His handsome son is behind the wheel, beaming.
“He’s got it under control!” I tell the Asian man. He turns back and smiles, his eye no longer twitching, his foot no longer tapping.
Father and son float inside, holding on to their paperwork.

I feel lonely as I watch one more car turn into the parking lot, carrying a sad-looking woman next to the driving examiner. A disappointed husband walks to the car and gets behind the wheel. They slowly edge back to the road and get swallowed up by traffic…

Please be gentle, I pray again.

After ten long minutes our car turns into the lot. I spot a tall frame behind the wheel. Could it be? I squint my eyes, trying to remember how tall the examiner was.
As they approach I can make out my daughter’s features – behind the wheel! She’s is beaming. My heart makes a happy dance. My hands stop shaking. The cold sweat taps magically shut off.

Clutching our precious paperwork, we glide inside the white building, smiling as we both ignore the big puddles of stress that stain my shirt and the red blotches on my neck.

My little girl is not so little anymore!

She’s got in under control!

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Hélène Toye is the author of ‘Go West, A Belgian Attempts American Motherhood’, available on : http://amzn.com/1493592548