Hot Springs, VA – When my now 15-and-a-half-year old was three she dressed as a pink-pussy cat for Halloween. Her name was Daisy the Cat.
For several years thereafter, every now and then, the blond curly headed little girl would take on her alter ego, lick my hands and crawl around on all fours, purring. She’s come a long way from the days when she wore pink cat ears, pink leggings and a fuzzy pink boa tail.
She shed the cat costume some time ago. She no longer licks my fingers/paws nor does she meow yet her prowess is forever increasing. Today, she’s behind the wheel of a car driving with her grandfather, affectionately known as PopPops.
Until now, Daisy has had the privilege of driving her grandparents’ golf carts at their winter home in Florida.
Yesterday, PopPops, invited Miss Daisy to take the wheel of his 23 year-old silver Volvo, as he rode shutgun. Following his lead, they’d drive down a Virginia country lane or two for some instruction.
They weren’t gone for long, maybe ten to twelve minutes. I was surprised to see them return so quickly. It’s not that I was anxious, not at all. I was excited for the girl’s growing independence and the special moment she’d shared with her grandfather.
When they pulled into the driveway, Daisy’s grandmother, Grandmamma, and I met the duo in the garage. The driver beamed as she exited the shiny car, having pulled it into the narrow space on her own. Her ear-to-ear smile and bright blue eyes said more than any words could. Her sense of accomplishment and excitement was contagious. PopPops smiled proudly too.
He told us that he’d directed Daisy to drive down the quiet road. Under the impression that the other summer residents were all away, he had her turn into a driveway. Much to their surprise, another car was moving toward them. Calmly, Miss Daisy backed up and out of the oncoming car’s way. She reached the roundabout and PopPops told her to back around in reverse twice, rather than drive forward.
Learning how to drive is something, I think, a person never forgets.
I don’t mean the “how to” part of driving but the “how it happened.”
PopPops remembers when he was 15 years old in Iowa, he learned to drive on a black Plymouth. Grandmama, who learned from her older brother, started driving when she was 14 in Nashville, TN. She learned to drive a Chevrolet. I remember turning 15 and learning to drive my mom’s dark blue Volvo. (couldn’t find an accurate image but the shape to follow is true to form).
That car was just a decade older than the silver car that Daisy’s been learning to drive. The passage of time is a weird thing.
Sunday morning while the Grands were at church, Daisy and I headed out for a Sunday drive in the country. We reached an empty paved parking lot and the pussycat took the wheel.
Frontwards and backwards she drove. Depressing the accelerator VA-ROOM, I felt the car jump forward, faster and more rapidly than appropriate. I remained calm. She got the hang of which way to turn the steering wheel while driving in reverse. Like almost everything this kid does, she took it all very seriously.
After a few minutes of back and forth, we switched places and headed
back to the Grands’ country road.
“Do I have to drive with PopPops this afternoon?” she whined. “You said we could go to the pool.”
I thought briefly about what she asked. Was it that she didn’t want
to drive? That she was nervous? That she wanted to go to the pool?
I didn’t care. I thought some more.
“Daisy,” I said, “PopPops is going to die. I don’t know when.” I paused.
This is a chance for you,” I continued. “Not only to learn how to
drive but really, it’s a chance to do something with him that you
will always remember.
You create memories. And they will always be with you. People
die but your memories of them stay with you.
I winced at the wisdom I was imparting. Was she listening? Was she cringing? Was she rolling her eyes? There was silence on both of our parts. I contemplated filling the thick air with more words but let the time pass. Silence.
I turned onto our country road, stopped the car on the flat at the bottom of our hill and turned the driving over to my passenger.
She drove us home, parked in the driveway.
Twenty minutes later, the Grands returned from church.
“Daisy,” said PopPops, “are you ready to go for a drive?”
I hesitated yet took a deep breath.
“I guess so,” said Daisy.
And the two of them were off.