Monday, August 31, 2009

Driving Miss Daisy



     For a while my mom has referred to giving rides to my youngest sister Theresa as “driving Miss Daisy.” As hard as it is for me to wrap my mind around it, “Miss Daisy” is about to
get her driver’s license and last week got her first car. She’s going into her senior year of high school and will turn eighteen this Halloween.
     The cute pudgy baby who I loved taking care of has grown up. I marveled over her baby pictures when going through a bag of old photos this afternoon. She was such an adorable little girl. Some things haven’t changed. She still loves to dress up, listen to music, and dance. She continues to come out with interesting ways of looking at the world and makes me laugh.
     Until today, I’d never experienced riding while Theresa drove. I’d ridden in the backseat with her and read her books when she was a toddler. Over the years, I’ve driven her to school, dance classes, friends’ houses, and later, to work, parties, and formal restaurants. It felt strange waiting for her to unlock the car, watch her adjust the seat, and check the mirrors.
     We both fumbled with the windshield wipers.  She’d never had to use them before, and I’d never seen anything like the ways hers work. After determining that having the rear wipers on full speed and the front ones on another hyperactive setting would be distracting and unnecessary when it was only drizzling, we figured out how to slow them down, and braced ourselves for the rather ominous task of backing out of Mom’s driveway.
     The ditch on one side of my mom’s driveway has caught more than one of our friends’ cars over the years. One time, it took them two or three tow trucks to pull one car out because of the way it got lodged in there.
     I was very pleased we made it out onto the street with just a few adjustments. She used her turn signals and went slower than the speed limit, which was fine with me. I calmly gave her advice about driving and mentioned any little things that might help her pass her last road test this Wednesday.
     After we went out to lunch, I offered to help her practice parking in the mall lot. She worried about it looking strange if people saw us driving around to different spaces. I told her it would attract significantly more attention if she were to hit a car in the parking lot at school because she hadn’t gotten enough parking practice. She agreed, and thus began the lesson.
     She picked a pretty large area without any cars in it. I’d select a parking spot and try to guide her on how to steer into it without hitting the cars we pretended were around it. Though she did hit a few of my made-up Ferraris, BMWs, and some poor imaginary pedestrian, she generally did a good job of judging distances and following instructions.
     Next I asked her to pick a spot along the back by a row of trees and back into it. She chose a spot in front of a wide tree as her goal, but when she started turning the wheel, she ended up in the next place over. I shook my head sadly and told her she’d just crushed a BMW convertible.
     Theresa worried that Sue, the name she’s given her white Subaru Forrester, was grumbling about making the hard turns required to slip into tight spots. I assured her that Sue was, in fact, geared up for the adventure, excited she’s got four-wheel drive.
     We worked some more on when to turn, and I showed her by opening my car door each time how much room she had between her car and the white line, reminding her that unless a Hummer or enormous SUV was parked next to her, she’d also have a little room on their side of the white line when pulling in to get the right angle.
     She did a great job driving.  I had a feeling she would or I never would have offered to take her out.  It was a neat bonding experience to have my sister looking to me for guidance again, wanting to know when to turn, and where to go. Sometimes I’ve missed that aspect of our relationship as she’s become so independent in her adolescence. Having her turn to me for encouragement and direction, even just for a couple hours while behind the wheel of her new car, reminded me how great it can feel to be a big sister.
     I love you, Miss Reesa Lynn, always have and always will.
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