And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
On Tuesday night at 9:00, after I finished teaching a class, I came upstairs here to my office, on the third floor. Typically, I would curl up behind my computer, a cup of coffee in my hands, and settle in to reading student manuscripts. But on this night, I picked up my computer and coffee and moved out to the deck.
On one side, we have a big corrugated steel wall, with a flat top, like a counter. Look over it, and you see the parking lot, three stories below. I put my computer on the “counter”, my coffee too, then opened the next file in line. With one eye, I read the manuscript. With the other, I watched the intersection of North Avenue and Brook Street.
I wasn’t out there to enjoy the weather. The earlier heatwave was broken, leaving behind a familiar summer night, just warm enough, with a slip of a cool breeze. There were fireflies. There were stars.
But I watched the street.
Twenty minutes later, just as I was getting antsy, a white VW Beetle turned onto Brook Street. I quickly crossed to the front of the deck and watched the car as it tooled past the condo, then turned into the parking garage. It steadily climbed the three story ramp to the top, putting the car at my eye level, but across the street. I looked at the face behind the wheel.
My daughter. 18-year old Olivia.
Earlier that day, at 1:30 in the afternoon, Olivia passed her driver’s test. It was her second time taking it. Between test 1 and test 2, Olivia practiced off 20 points worth of mistakes that cost her her license the first time. This test put her far below the limit where she would have failed.
When we met her tester, it was the same man who flunked her three weeks ago. Olivia was stoic. She calmly led him to the car. And then she calmly nailed her test, though she didn’t know it. She calmly came back, followed him to the cubicle where they met me. She stood calmly as he told her the things she could improve on. When he said, “But that’s all. You passed!”, she lost all calmness, all stoicism, and leaped into the air with a little girl leap and shrieked, “YES!!!”
At 4:00, two and a half hours later, she left on her first solo drive: to work. And now, I stood on the deck and watched as she came home.
I watched the Beetle move through the parking garage and choose a parking space. I watched as it backed in and out of that space three times before the driver was satisfied with the car’s straightness. I watched her get out, beep the car locked, walk a few steps, turn and beep the car again, go a little further, beep the car, and then turn toward the elevator.
That’s when I called her. “Did you turn the lights off?”
I admit it. I laughed. I watched her walk back to the car, turn the lights off, beep, beep, beep her way to the elevator, come out on the first floor, and walk toward home. She looked up at me and waved. I waved back.
Was there any better picture of watching my daughter enter adulthood? And step back? And enter adulthood? And step back? The adult took and passed the test. The little girl cheered and jumped. The adult drove to work and back and made sure the car was parked correctly and locked safely. The little girl kinda forgot to turn off the lights.
And through all of it, as I watched that Beetle come home, driven well by my daughter, I thought, This is the little girl who wasn’t ever even supposed to speak.
Look at her go.
And that is what she’s doing; Going.
But there will always be steps back. Always.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.