Monday, May 25, 2009

Meelyn, freewheelin'

For those of you who have children younger than mine, let me just tell you about this WHOLE NEW AMAZING TIME OF LIFE you're coming onto within a few years.

No, I am not talking about the empty nest. I am talking about having a child who can drive. As far as I'm concerned, Meelyn may be the one with the driver's license, but I am the one with A LICENSE TO FREEDOM.


Okay. Okay. Deep breaths.

Here is why I am so excited: Meelyn has now done three or four errands for me, all by herself. She's been to the pharmacy, the grocery store twice, and the public library. That doesn't really sound like much, does it? But oh my goodness. Oh my heavenly, gracious, glorious goodness! It really is a lot. A LOT. Ooops, there I go again.

You see, all mothers know that at least 20% of every day involves doing a bunch of boresome errands that must be done because I defy you to serve broccoli and cheese stuffed baked potatoes without the potatoes. Know what I mean? Yes, we have all been to that bad place, haven't we? Some people do their errands on a daily basis; some wait and reserve a huge chunk of time for their errands -- post office, dry cleaners', the aforementioned library and pharmacy, the grocery where you buy your milk and eggs and bread and the like, the other grocery where the meat is cheaper, and the discount department store where the toiletries and cleaning supplies are so much cheaper, but you have to walk ninety-six miles to round them all up and any number of other places, including the gas station -- but whenever you do them, it's just terrible.

Well, let me tell you. When you have a kid with a driver's license, it turns out that they can do a lot of that stuff for you and here's the kicker: they enjoy it. They do! They get to be out in your car, alone at last and free from your choice of radio station, doing grown-uppy things like mailing a package and buying the potatoes you were hoping to serve for dinner tonight and picking up your winter coat from the cleaner's. Then they come home all wreathed in smiles with a handful of receipts and it is the most liberating thing I have ever known. And it's only been a couple of days!

My friend Julie B. told me it would be this way. There was a fanatic glow in her eyes when she explained to me the many delights of never having to make a crazy dash for the market on taco night because you forgot to buy the tortillas. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that she and Jeff live so far out in the country, Paul Bunyan and his great blue ox, Babe, are their nearest neighbors; a "quick trip into town" for her was much more of a committment of time and patience than it is for me. I do know that when her older son balked at getting his license, saying that he preferred, when all was said and done, to be chauffeured like a sultan to and from his various activities, Julie turned into a shrieking, flaming skull shooting around the living room and told the kid in no uncertain terms that she was going to drive him down to the BMV and he was going to take that test, or else.

Else what? he asked flippantly.

Julie got very, very close to him, so close the flames singed his eyebrows and chapped his lips. "Don't make me show you 'else what,'" she breathed in a quivering voice, kind of like that girl from The Exorcist. "You're not going to like 'else what,' belieeeeeeeeve me."

"Oh-KAY!" he said, irritably shrugging one shoulder. "Geeez! Maaaaaan!!!! Don't get so amped!" But when he got up and ambled out to the kitchen for a snack, he did so with a quick wide-eyed backward glance.

"Just GO GET IN THE CAR," Julie growled, teeth clenched. "Here's your driver's manual; you can study on the way there. And don't even CONSIDER not passing."

We didn't have anything like that here because Meelyn was terribly excited to drive. And frankly, all those errands I need her to run are right up a girl's alley, involving no long explanations of what a cotton ball is and where it can be found and how the cotton ball is different than the cosmetic square, so just because you see the word "cotton" on the package doesn't mean you can grab just any old thing.

It's really lovely. And now I think I understand the angst so many parents have about Empty Nest Syndrome: not only do they miss having their kids in and out of the house, they also have to do all their own boresome errands again after that blessed reprieve of the high school years.

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