Since sharing in my last post about all the different writing voices screaming in my head, I’ve managed to quieten down a few of them, although not enough to feel too smug. Not smug at all in fact. Still, my head is above water again, which is a good thing.
bleeding writing another chapter for my book this week, memories came flooding back to remind me of how devastated I was when, at seventeen, I failed my driving test at my first try. I wasn’t ready, I had rushed into it and I was utterly intimidated by the driving instructor. I wasn’t to know that my life would change for the better only a few months later (for a time) but at that point I couldn’t see anything through my tears.
Having a car of my own meant freedom, plain and simple, and that was never more clear than when we moved to California in 1986 because there you don’t walk, you drive.
We started off with a Buick LeSabre with broken shock-absorbers and things went downhill from then on.
Over the years we had many clunkers and most of ex-husband’s (EH) days off were spent on his back fixing leaking radiators and who knows what else.
The crowning glory came when we acquired a dark blue Chevy Camaro from EH’s brother. Oh yes, I loved that car.
I loved the sound it made when I gunned it across town, the throaty roar of its powerful V8 engine rumbling through the exhaust-pipe, waking everyone up.
Driving it made me feel rebellious, bad, crazy even. The fact that I only used it for the school-run to pick up my children is beside the point, although it was great fun driving it past the high school.
But there was a problem, wouldn’t you know it. Every time I turned the corner it leaked power-steering fluid and the steering wheel juddered so badly that I could hardly hold on to it. Then, one afternoon in well over 100 degrees heat, with the kids crammed in the back and stuck in the middle of heavy traffic on a bridge, that lovely Camaro died on me.
This was the last straw, I’d had enough and I let EH know all about it. And so we got our first decent vehicle, my ‘Mommy-Mobile’, and I was never happier but EH hated it. It was a Ford Windstar minivan (‘people-mover’ as we call it in the UK) and EH said it was like driving a truck on a car chassis. But it had more than two doors, sliding doors even, and I was ecstatic.
So there I was, very much the ‘school-run’ mom. I always wanted to be available to be there at the end of the school day to pick up my children because I had learned that it was during our drives home, no matter how short, that we had our best conversations. I didn’t have to prompt or do the usual, “So honey, what did you do today?” only to be greeted by, “Nothing”, if I was lucky, a grunt if not.
Concentrating on driving, yet not too preoccupied, I was all-ears and able to listen to what my children were really saying, or, more importantly, to what they chose not to say. The simple sharing of everyday life which is so important for building relationships with them. We had each other all to ourselves before the distractions back home dispersed us in different directions and those precious moments would be lost, until the next day.
I looked forward to seeing my children at the end of the school day even though, like so many young families, we always seemed to be rushing here and there but, for the most part, our conversations were full of silliness and laughter. Making funny faces in the rear-view mirror? Of course! Rude noises? You bet! There was one conversation which I came to dread though and it was always on a Friday.
My youngest son, Nicky, while in second grade and so about seven years old, had a teacher who used to hand out candies (sweets) to the ‘good’ kids on Friday afternoons just before the end of the day. If you got one you became known as the ‘Candy Kid’. No big shakes. Except Nicky happened to mention one Friday that his friend was Candy Kid for the third time running and he was starting to get a bit upset that he hadn’t had a turn yet.
I said all the usual comforting things that mothers say at such times: “Don’t worry sweetie, it’ll be your turn next week, I’m sure!” But on and on it went until every Friday I would sit there, in the car park, waiting for him with such anxiety that I felt physically sick. “Oh dear God, please let my son be Candy Kid, just for one day!”
You mums/moms will understand this. It’s serious stuff and this was getting beyond a joke. I couldn’t bear to see my son looking so crestfallen week after week.
So I took action. One Friday I met Nicky’s teacher after school and we had a little chat. It turned out that it was nothing more than an oversight on her part, as in, “Oh, hasn’t Nick been Candy Kid yet?” I was not amused.
I told her in no uncertain terms, that she had to make him Candy Kid. Not for my son, oh no, it had gone way beyond that. No, for MY mental health because I simply couldn’t take it any longer.
The following week Nicky came out of school with a beaming smile. “Guess what Mommy, I got to be Candy Kid!” Well Praise Jesus! We had the happiest of conversations driving home that afternoon. And the icing on the cake? My car didn’t break down once.
“Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.” ― Françoise Sagan