Family Life


In front of our house is a small park, more of an oversized neutral ground, where kids ride their bikes and draw with chalk on the bare concrete. In the early days of living here, Rylan and Amelia spent hours riding their Big Wheels up and down the block. From their Big Wheels, they graduated to tricycles, then bikes, like most kids. Pretty soon, Rylan will be moving onto the ultimate set of Big Wheels…he’s starting Driver’s Ed. OMG. How did this happen so quickly?

I’m starting to relive all the cliches I felt when Ry’s dad and Aunt Steph embarked on driving. “I’m not worried about him–he’s a responsible kid. I’m worried about the other guy on the road,” crossed my mind the other day. “Keep up your grades, and you keep the keys, “ was another.

When our kids started driving, a loving, trusted neighbor (who had kids about 10 years older than ours) told me, “Make sure the first car your kids drive is a big, hulking car that he or she can’t speed in and is a little difficult to park,” she said. “Don’t make it easy for them.”

So, we handed Philip the keys to our ancient blue Plymouth mini-van that had about a gazillion miles on it and would forever smell like the middle school soccer team. He wasn’t thrilled and sarcastically called it a “Chick Magnet,” but it was freedom and got him from school to soccer practice to wherever. Until it died a natural death one day and had to be towed away. His next car was a used Toyota Four Runner. It was big, macho, bright red, and safe. It was his dream car. He took care of it and tricked it out with a boombox (which could be heard for blocks away) and deer headlights. He drove that car to Pennsylvania for four years of college, to Colorado to work for a year and back to New Orleans for law school. Until it was totaled by an uninsured driver one day.

Aunt Steph went to boarding school, so she didn’t get her first car until she went to college. Like her brother, she got an SUV (perfect for packing it to the roof with clothes and girl stuff). Her college was in upstate New York, in an area that had piles of snow for months on end. It took us weeks to find a used Ford Explorer with four-wheel drive (a true gas guzzler, but perfect on icy roads). She loved that car.

Each time my kids hit the roads to go back to school, I said lots of flying novenas for their safety. Actually, I still do.

I’m now thinking about Rylan and his soon-to-be newfound freedom. I suppose I won’t have the opportunity to pick him up at school or activities anymore and I’ll be more obsolete than ever. But I will be able to lend him my SUV when he’s in a pinch. Like the family SUVs of the past, it’s big and safe. It also has every conceivable accessory, except the boombox and deer headlights, which really don’t have much of a role in uptown New Orleans these days, do they?

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