Jewish World Review Dec. 7, 2001/ 22 Kislev, 5762

Gayle A. Cox

Gayle Allen Cox
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Consumer Reports

Driving out of an era -- AS if we Americans don't have enough to be edgy about these days, I am announcing yet another clear and present danger: My daughter is learning to drive.

I considered phoning Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, but I figured he had more pressing matters to deal with right now, although not necessarily more dangerous ones.

Perhaps you have seen those bumper stickers reading, "I brake for ... (fill in the blank)." Well, the bumper sticker on my daughter's car will read, "I brake for nothing - including light poles and brick walls."

She drove me around the church parking lot once, and before we made a complete circle, I was covering my eyes and praying for deliverance. All I can say is: G-d help the instructors at the driving school, and G-d help motorists all across the fruited plain.

OK, maybe I am taking this driving thing a bit too far, but being humorous keeps me sane. It is my way of dealing with those awful feelings of panic I get every time I think about my "baby" behind the wheel of a car.

Little Leslie? Driving?

Admittedly, part of me is delighted that my taxiing days are numbered, but another part of me - the schmaltzy mommy part - can't bear the thought.

I mean, I have chauffeured this kid around for almost 16 years! How dare she grow up and not need me anymore!

Doesn't she know how much I look forward to our drives to school, watching the sun peek over the horizon, and divulging our crazy dreams from the night before?

And what about all those trips to malls and ballgames and concerts and church?

Doesn't she know how much I will miss her in the seat beside me, fussing about my taste in radio and giving me advice on what is cool and what isn't?

Sure, I occasionally griped about having to take her everywhere, but I really didn't mean it. Those were treasured moments for me. Times of listening, learning, and planting seeds.

I never will forget the two of us cruising down Interstate 20 one afternoon in the fall of 1987.

After smiling in my rearview mirror at the tousled-haired toddler in the car seat, I commenced singing my ABCs. "A, B, C, D, E, F, G..."

Her eyes lit up, and she listened, quiet as a mouse. The minute the song was over, she hollered, "Sing it 'gin, Mommy," and Mommy sang it again ... and again ... and again.

By the time we returned home, the tousled-haired toddler in the car seat was singing it, too.

I remember another notable drive in December, just before her fourth birthday.

We had visited nearly every mall in Texas - looking for that perfect Christmas gift - and as we settled into the car and headed for home, she looked at me and said, "Mommy, Santa Claus isn't a real man."

Seeing that she had made a point of waving at every Santa Claus in every mall we had visited that day, I was a bit shocked by her sudden announcement.

"Why do you say that?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"Because," she replied, letting out a long sigh, "him would be too tired to go to every mall."

Heavens, yes, it is going to be difficult letting go of these car keys. In fact, it just may be the most difficult thing this mother ever has had to do.

But she will do it.

With a blend of panic and pride, she will let go of the wheel, exit the vehicle, and hand over the keys: The tousled-haired kid in the car seat doesn't need to be driven anymore. She is a responsible teen, quite capable of driving herself down roads of her own choosing.

Drive safely, my dear, dear child. And don't forget the way home! Your mother won't rest until she hears your car in the driveway.

JWR contributor Gayle Allen Cox writes from Fort Worth. Comment on this column by clicking here.


11/05/01: Flying the flag isn't a new habit for some of us
09/26/01: Sadly, the green trees among us don't get a lot of attention
08/26/01: Is eating on the run the next target of Big Brother government?
07/09/01: Teen tramps and the mothers who encourage them

© 2001, Gayle Allen Cox