For the first time in twenty-six years, I am not driving somebody somewhere. A rough total milage calculation from all the cars that we owned while raising our four children places me just over five-hundred thousand miles.
That’s twenty times around the circumference of the earth.
I own my acute odometer shame and cringe when I think of my carbon footprint. It’s not the parenting badge that I want to shine a light on and do so only to illustrate what a colossal deal it is for me to be out of the family Uber business.
When I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I followed the hubris of every couple and made the mental list of things that I would never do as a parent. I balked at the thought of ever driving a minivan. It was right up there with never saying a snarky word to my child and the promise that parenthood would not change our marriage.
We went through several ill-fated car purchases including our neighbor’s hail-pocked Tercel, a top-coat shedding Taurus station wagon with chronic heating and cooling issues, and a red Brocho that we discovered later had two bullet hole through the roof.
Several months before the twins were born, we made our last questionable car decision. We were lured into buying a second-hand Suburban because it was so tricked out. We could only hear the bells and whistles and the roar of the impending doubling of our family while letting the accident and mechanical history slip by like white noise.
The Suburban was ok, but just delayed our inevitable car drama correction: Minivan ownership.
As I drove the first of our minivans off the lot, I accepted my life as a transporter of children and understood how people joined cults.
Our two minivans, the second of which we still own, steadfastly saw me through the constant rhythm of activities, sports, play dates, school drop-offs and pick-ups, and general family maintenance. With one push of a button, the sliding door opened and closed as children, mine and others, piled in and out for fifteen years.
The van was part living room, garden shed, dressing area, study hall, storage unit, and kitchen. It became an extension of our family life, and much of our togetherness took place during hours driving up and down MoPac. None of those five-hundred thousand miles were glamorous.
I barely noticed when Leo left the minivan and began driving himself. I have no recollection of the process. What I do remember is standing in our front yard, bragging to the lady next door about what a good driver he was, when at that exact moment, Leo came screeching around the cul-de-sac, jumped the curb with two wheels, and drove through our neighbor’s garden. He parked the car in front of the house and walked by us as if nothing happened. To this day, Leo claims that I taught him how to drive.
Eli and his friends were all gamers and spent way too much time inside darkened rooms. We were eager to get him behind the wheel, out of the house and into the light. We signed him up for a formal driving course, but when he rebelled against completing his road hours with the instructor, Matthew took over, or at least I thought he did. According to Eli, I also taught him how to drive for which he continues to blame me for each of his accidents and tickets, plural.
It was clear that I was pegged as the driving teacher in our family lore. I figured I needed to be more serious about the title with the twins.
Georgia was the most eager to drive. I stretched out the learning process much longer than she wanted, making sure that we completed every item on the parent-taught checklist provided by the Department of Public Safety. Georgia credits me for her being a good driver but quickly adds that it was a hellish process of my constant wincing, commenting on the nearness of objects on the right side of the car, usually in a loud panicky voice, and the dramatic foot smashing of my imaginary passenger-side brake.
Then there was Lila. With three kids driving on their own, I downsized to a Forrester and passed the minivan to Matthew. I nicknamed our Forrester the therapy box, as we took our teacher and student positions in the car. We would begin each session with an agreed upon truce, but it rarely lasted around the block. Take Georgia’s description, double the suffering, and add more obscenities.
It has been three weeks since Lila and I sat patiently in the hard blue chairs at the licensing office. Her turn was called and I watched as one practiced smile for the camera set us both free. I was officially relieved of my duty, and just like that, almost half my life spent driving somebody somewhere was over.