Do you recall learning to drive? I can still remember the dented green truck I roared around in. I terrified all our sheep and any humans crazy enough to venture near. Dad swears even the trees ducked for cover.
Fast forward to January 2005. My son, Tim, has his learner’s permit and he and I are off to a deserted car park for some lessons. I’m determined to be an excellent driving instructor: patient, succinct and supportive.
We attach the learner signs and swap seats. Tim adjusts and re-adjusts the mirrors, his seatbelt and distance from the pedals. We’ve been here ten minutes. My old truck would have done ten laps by now but I bite my lip and force a smile.
“Let’s drive to the other end.”
Tim grips the steering wheel tightly, checking instruments and mirrors again and again. He chugs across the parking area, attaining a maximum speed of 5kph. He turns off the ignition with a huge sigh. “Can we go home now?”
I pin on my Mother-of-the-Year smile. “You’re doing very well. Everyone feels a little nervous at the start. Drive back to the entrance, honey. The place is deserted so let’s go faster.”
He straightens up and adjusts the mirrors again. I take a deep breath and slowly exhale.
“What?” he demands.
“What do you mean, ‘what’?”
“You’re breathing at me, Mum. Don’t you want me to be safe?”
NO, I yearn to screech. I want you to get an expletive move-on before I die an old woman. I want you to be like I was when I was young and how I imagine all other kids are. Please don’t sit there like an eighty-year-old. I want you to show me you have some get up and go in you and rocket across this open space NOW!
As if clairvoyant, he jams his foot down hard on the accelerator and we hurtle across the concrete. My head lurches back against the seat and my eyebrows collide with my hairline. Succinctly, I scream, “Crikey… brake!” His foot finds the pedal and we lurch to a halt inches from a huge, solitary gum tree.
Pale and wide-eyed, he licks dry lips.
Swallowing hard, I look at him, this sensitive, articulate, gentle young man. No, he’s not as heedless and enthusiastic about driving as I was, but maybe that‘ll keep him alive on our city’s streets. I reach over to rub his back and smile lovingly at my cautious son.
“That’s okay, Tim. The trees had to get out of the way when I learned to drive, too. Your father will bring you back tomorrow.”