Driving with my mom

This is the story of how I realized I was a mini-me of my mother.

I got my learners permit two days before I left for college two hours away from my hometown. I was eighteen going on nineteen and still didn’t know how to drive. My friends made a mockery out of me asking how come I’ve been all around the world, but I didn’t even bother to get my license. It was an ongoing joke. They told me I was better off staying away from motorized vehicles with my accident prone ways. I didn’t want to endanger anyone, did I? Besides, I like the romanticism of public transportation. Seriously. What a normal person would find repulsive, I find endearing. I also love cemeteries. Take the subway one time, you’ll have plenty of interesting stories to tell, I promise you. My inner hippie also advocates for carpooling and bus riding. But alas, I don’t live in a city with plenty of public transportation to go around- I live in a suburb. The practicality of getting my license was more evident to me every day. I gave in and became one of “those people” driving an army-green Jeep.

                The thought of me driving at sixteen frightened my mom. She was particularly on edge because a girl she worked with got into a car crash with her daughter around the time of my sixteenth birthday. “Happy birthday to me, you’ll give your mom a stroke if you start driving.” So I waited a while and decided to do some more awesome things with my time (join the school musical, go on a trip to Europe, write for the school newspaper, see my favorite band play live, and enter an art contest). The waiting didn’t bother me at all. Sure, I wanted to travel and not see more of the same but I never had that rebellion that fueled most teenagers protest behind the wheel. My parents weren’t overprotective and my home was a calming place to be. A lot of my friends could drive and bumming rides off of them was appealing. The desire to drive was just not bred into my blood.

                Once I came back from college, I really emphasized the time spent with my family. I know a ton of well-adjusted people that grow closer to their parents once they leave their home. It is all a part of growing up. It makes me regret all the times I ever acted like a brat or talked back to them. Puberty hormones are ridiculous, especially when they have been bottled up for fifteen years.  One of the ways my mom and I got our daily dose of mother-daughter bonding time was through her teaching me how to drive. I wished to mimic her driving style which was cautious but not too cautious and very functional in every driving occasion. My dad just drove on two extremist spectrums, “old grandpa” slow or “teenager with a death wish” fast. Also, she had way more patience with me than my dad, which was needed.

                During my winter break that was excruciatingly long, I picked up driving as a hobby. I drove around my high school’s parking lot and then the rest of the public school ‘s campus. I was driving where I had been educated, yet the tables had been turned. I was no longer under the control of the school’s cruel hallways and terrible cafeteria food. Instead, I was a full blown adult continuing on the path to higher education. Now the bullies walked in smaller packs in order to blend in, sharing the same room with a stranger turned from hopeful into bleak, and the food was just as terrible but I was paying twice as much for it. Still, I could look down on the tiny grade school campus and scoff at it because I had survived and I was learning things that could help me save the world. But I was back home in the normality and my plans to save the world were put on hold for more trivial things.

                When stopped at a stop sign with my mom in the passenger seat, I was rear-ended by one of my brother’s irresponsible friends. I was horrified and terribly shaken because in somehow, someway, I believed it was my fault. Maybe I had been stopped for entirely too long. I was not sure of proper stop sign etiquette.  But the boy reluctantly got out of his car to explain to my mom how he thought that collecting change that had fallen on his rug was a good activity to preform while driving. Later, when I returned to college, my mom informed that the same kid completely totaled his car. He was alright but insanely unfit to be on the road. I was still debating my validity on the road myself.

                Accidental avoidance of driving when I came home for summer break kept me off of the roads for a while. My friend Jamie just got her license and didn’t mind giving me a lift. As for the rest of my friends, I made them come to me. I still got to work by my dad driving me and picking me up. Work and course work from an online class I was taking plagued my schedule. What little time I had was spent riding bikes with my mom to stay active and reuniting with my high school friends. Finally, after three weeks of being home, I was behind the wheel again.

                My mom directed me to drive on country roads. Soon, I was driving an hour away from where I started, and I was doing surprisingly well. Maybe I was driving a little slow, and maybe four cars passed me in a no passing zone but it was a step up from my residential driving. Suddenly, I was driving on a two lane highway going up a mountain. My sluggish driving ways weren’t going to cut it so my mom told me to floor it. I did and then immediately heard a big bang and then a loud dragging noise. It sounded like the whole bottom had fallen out. I started to panic and my mom reached over and turned on my blinkers. We found a place to pull over and I did. We jumped out of the car to see the damage that had been done. The muffler had fallen out and started dragging. The muffler that was giving my mechanic dad an issue. The muffler I was told was repaired.

                Still, I had this insanely self-centered feeling like it was all my fault. I kept on asking my mom if I had anything to do with it. She assured me that it was already broken and that simply hitting the gas shouldn’t make it fall off like that. It figures that the universe would smite me as soon as I put my foot on the gas exceeding fifty miles. I don’t have the best of luck and I never have.

                My lack of luck runs in the family. My dad always complains how everything bad happens to my mom. Things tend to break when she uses them last. I don’t think they are breaking on her accord, I feel it’s just bad timing. And when something happens, people need someone to blame instead of blaming the balance of the universe. My mom handles situations the best she can. First she is awkward, then she visibly freaks out a bit, and then she calms down when she realizes that it is not the end of the world. Then her problem solving skills take over. I have mastered her reaction from years of observation.

                Her reaction to bugs was something passed onto me also. We were on top of wooded mountain. Forests usually contain living creatures such as bugs. After we investigated the car for a bit and called my dad to tell him that we needed saving, the cicadas attacked. It was our luck that out of those thirteen years of hibernating, they came out for this joyous occasion. Those blind, giant bugs flew into our hair and into our car. My mom screamed bloody murder on the side of the road. Any passerby would have assumed an ax wielding psycho chased us out of the woods. A cicada attached itself to a tape roll on our car floor so my mom picked it up and threw it in the gravel. Then she tried to brush it off all while continuously screaming. Once it was gone, we jumped in the car and put the windows up. My mom gathered her marbles and tried her best to calm down by muttering “I can’t do this.” I don’t know if she picked it up from me or if I took her line. Being in the car was too much heat and stale air for us. Finally, we gave up and threw ourselves to the wolves again.

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                “I have to pee,” I confessed. My mom looked at me pityingly as she admitted that she had to empty her bladder too. The forest was too overgrown to find refuge in. We casually walked across the highway until we spotted a car coming and we both sprinted in unplanned syncopation. On the other side of the highway was abandoned buildings overgrown with vines. There was a delicate path of wild daisies that led us down to a secluded area out of the view of the highway. My mom popped a squat as I kept a look out. Then we switched roles. Girls get the short end of the stick when it comes to peeing. Boys’ outside plumbing allows them to literally piss anywhere.  Despite being anatomically unfit to pee anywhere, I’d like to think I’m expert on peeing in the woods after ten years of Girl Scouts camp, roughing it in the wilderness. We walked back up the path of daisies, like an ironic welcoming handshake into the anti-lady-like club for liberating womanhood.

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Our idle feet crossed the street back to our helpless shelter. The cicadas came out to play again and this time I had a score to settle. I wasn’t going to let a few bugs scare me, after all I was a developed human with a big brain and opposable thumbs. So I used those opposable thumbs to lift up stones and throw them at the bugs, in an attempt at a really aggressive passive aggressive solution. I wasn’t as brave as imagined; as the cicadas buzzed past me, I let out squeaky shrieks identical to my mother’s.  I kept on missing and they mocked me with their high pitched hums. A threw one rock and it strayed into road while a car was whizzing past. My mom warned “you’re going to hit a car.”

After trying to deter the bugs with no avail, I told my mom that we should try going over on the other side of the road because there was less trees over there. My Girl Scout logic had kicked in again. There were fewer cicadas over on that side, but their presence still made us yelp. We couldn’t shake that feeling of the bugs crawling on our skin. One person stopped when we were stranded for an hour and a half. My assumption was that many cars would have stopped to offer their help. I believe in the goodness of humanity and I also believe that some people are sexually driven. Even if someone didn’t want to help us out of the kindness of hearts, you’d think they would have stopped for two attractive women on the side of the road. My facial features don’t look like my mom’s, but I have inherited her exact body shape. Although I’m more petite, we share a proportionally curvy silhouette. My mom and I had the same thought about the guy who stopped and asked us if we needed help: he was nice, but he was likely a rapist. We are both optimistic cynics: the best examples of walking contradictions.

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Finally, we could see a brown minivan driving up the mountain. My dad secured the muffler with some mesh and wires. As we were riding the downward slope to the bottom, the cicadas kept on flying into our windshields. “Another one bites the dust,” my mom repeated when a continuous stream of cicadas would hit our windshield and left a streak mark behind. One got trapped in the windshield wiper and my mom and I couldn’t hold back our shouts, even if there were several inches of glass between us and the cicada. I have written about how alike I am to my dad, but I’m also very similar to my mom. It took one of our unlucky and entertaining driving trips to realize that. I imitated and emulated both my parents’ personalities. Their guidance pushed me to be my own person who was influenced by their presence in my childhood and young adult life.

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