The Time My Mom Taught Me To Drive Stick

Tonight I drove through an intersection that I rarely drive through. I don't know if it was the fact that I just watched "Beautiful Boy" (a damn tear jerker) or some extra dust coming through the vents, but my eyes started to water profusely.

A decade ago, my mom Mr. Miyagi'ed me hard (yes, that's a verb now) in that very intersection. I cried then, too.

She'd just bought me this awesome new (well, old but new to me) convertible and we were cruising around town all day. We hit the mall, Target, the grocery store. Errands that weren't even on the list when we started our excursion were added along the way. She just wanted to keep cruising.

Finally, hungry and tired, she looked at me, tossed me the keys, and said:

"Okay, now you get us home."

The thing is, it was "my" car, but I didn't know how to drive it (yet). I'd never driven a stick shift before and was pretty nervous to try.

I asked her to compromise, "Take me for a lesson in a parking lot or our neighborhood later."

"Nope. We aren't going home until you drive us there."

You just can't win sometimes.

After struggling to get the car started (if you've driven stick before, you know why) I managed to keep the car moving for a few miles.

No stop signs or red lights, until WHAM--I had to take a left at a stoplight against oncoming traffic (in the same intersection that made me teary-eyed tonight).

In an automatic that would have been easy peasy. Stop, yield, go.

But in a stick shift? When you can't even tell the difference between the clutch and the brake yet?

I stalled immediately.

And then again.

And again.

And then again.

And then one more time before I totally lost it on my mom screaming, "I CANNOT DO THIS."

She just smiled.

I tried again.

And I stalled again.

At this point, I was blocking traffic behind me from turning left AND all traffic from moving perpendicular to me. I was mortified.

Sitting in the middle of the intersection, my mom then grabs my face, looks me square in both eyes and says:

"What's the worst that can happen, my love? The people here think, 'Oh look at that nice young girl learning to drive a manual'?"

Next try.

Off we went.

--

There are two important lessons I take from this.

First, so much of life is like what my mom encouraged me to do.

If you focus on the task at hand, stop projecting about what everyone else is thinking, and just relax a little...everything will be just fine.

It's a lesson I really needed to re-learn tonight. And I'm grateful for it.

The second lesson is (of course): moms know everything. Even when they aren't here anymore.

Kate Ward