Very early in the pandemic, Nikki started riding with me 4+ times a day over to Mom’s. She just went along for the chance to get out of the house because she was discovering staying home all day was not good for her mental health. Plus, it gave her a chance to listen to her music and for us to chat. Without realizing it, it became our *us* time…because it was hard to have any one-on-one time when we were all locked down in the house and not allowed to go anywhere.
After Mom died we kept up the tradition by just running to the McDonald’s by Mom’s house to get Diet Cokes in the drive-thru. I also ended up teaching her to drive (which was NOT the plan, BTW, because I’m a horrible teacher, I’m amazed we both survived) and so for the last few months we’ve done a lot of heading out in the car together to just get driving practice in. And sometimes she just says, “Do you need to run any errands?” which just means, “I need a break from homework,” and we’d head out for some random task.
My point is – for the last 18 months or so – our time to talk and laugh and sometimes cry…all revolved around driving together. She turned 16 yesterday, got her driver’s licence and we won’t really have that anymore. (Sidenote: To prove she is her mother’s daughter, she got there around 6:45 so she’d be first in line when the testing office opened at 8am.) Which is why I was sobbing in the front yard as I was watching her drive herself to school.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m thrilled for her. I very fondly remember how much easier life got once I could drive and I’m looking forward to that for her. But I’m going to miss it all. I never grumbled a bit about driving her anywhere she needed to go because I knew this day was coming. I also felt privileged to drive her friends around and I’m going to miss them all now too. I’ve had cars full of singing teenage girls many times over the last year and it’s one of the most awesome things as a parent…one of the things my Dad often reflected fondly on in my youth. I’m not sure if I would have known to savor it as much if my Dad hadn’t often talked about how much he missed it, but at least I knew to really appreciate each time I had a car full of her friends.
Sidenote: Once I drove a few of them without her. That was the biggest compliment I could have ever received, her friends accepting a ride from me to see her without her being in the car.
She stayed out driving her friends around last night and honestly I was way less worried than I thought I’d be. She came home so happy and excited and I just remember that new freedom so vividly I couldn’t help but love it for her.
But man…I’m also not quite ready to say goodbye to our constant drives together. I feel like there has been so much change in our lives since the start of the pandemic. Mom moved here, her kidneys failed, then she died. Donnie went on sabbatical and then after 6 months got a new job for a new company working fully remote. I started working again. E even moved during the pandemic (closer to us!) and switched jobs. There has been several years worth of changes in our lives in the last 18 months and I just would like some boring stability for awhile if it’s not too much to ask.
Bonus: Here is the entry I wrote when E turned 16. It’s missing pictures of course thanks to the emergency blog move this year (ANOTHER CHANGE, DAMMIT) but it’s still a fun read.