Channeling Tracy Chapman tonight and the small things keep me going. It means something now when on rare days I get in my own little car and drive. Not far...not for long - but driving was always about independence for me - the freedom to leave. Most times now, people ferry me around - put cushions on the seats for me to sit on - deposit me at home when the task or appointment is done.
In my youth, my friend's mom used to take us in her old and tempermental VW van to the mall parking lot when the stores were closed and let us practice driving a standard. We'd circle the aisles haltingly - mastering the turn signals - pulling into parking spots - backing up and starting again. We were not allowed to turn on the radio - even though it was rarely functional. We felt so grown up traversing that empty space - so entitled.
When I was about fifteen and my sister Karen had her driver's license for about a year - we were granted permission to skip the ride to Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle's place with my parents - so as to make our own grand entrance hours later via our little red truck. As it was freezing and in Prince George, Karen agreed after some begging on my part that it would be safe for me to start the truck and warm it up for the ride. I was up for the task - enthusiastic - turned the key and waited for the magic to start. I regrettably did miss the step where you make sure the clutch was in the neutral position. Thus the truck and I careened quickly into the frozen cement block fence it was parked in front of - which shattered on impact - while the front of the truck crumbled. I was not hurt - though frankly my terror over confessing what happened surpassed any physical symptoms. The world didn't end - the truck and the fence were eventually fixed. I don't know why I thought of that moment - but it was a story that used to come up some times around the holiday season. My determination to master the means of escape - and my refusal to see that I wasn't ready to go.