“You lied to me,” Cole announced with all seriousness one day.
I panicked. What was he referring to? I always tried to be honest, well, with the exception of some parental lies us parents had to tell. Y’all know the ones of which I speak.
“What do you mean, I lied to you?” I asked, stalling for time.
“You said the driving age was 30. It’s 16.”
“Who told you that?” I asked.
“My teacher. He told us the way we could remember four times four was it equaled 16 – and that’s when we can drive a 4X4.”
“He was referring to an old law,” I said. A tiny white lie to cover my previous lie. “It’s not like that anymore. You have to be 30.”
Cole gave me the two-minute stare down. “Mama, I don’t know where you got your information, but you are wrong. I can drive when I am 16.”
That’s what he thinks. He can drive when I say so. Right now, I am saying 30.
I didn’t care for driving when I was a teenager. Sure, all my friends were driving and I wanted to get my license but I didn’t want to drive.
It was a traumatic experience for me, learning how to operate this heavy machinery.
Granny had told me one Sunday morning I could drive to church. She got in the passenger seat and my grandfather climbed in the back.
We lived about 10 minutes from church, a straight shot up Hwy. 78 to the church at the crossroads. Easy peasy.
“What are you doing? Get in your lane! Sweet Jesus have mercy, you a-going to put me in the grave before you get me to church. Watch the road. Watch the dadblamed road!”
I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but she was yelling at me every time I breathed.
“Ten and 2,” she pointed at the steering wheel. “Put your hands at 10 and 2!”
I had no idea what she was talking about. I wanted to cry.
“Why are you in the middle of the road?” she cautioned again.
I didn’t realize I had been. I was trying to figure out what the heck was supposed to be the clock and what was going to happen at 10 and 2.
I glanced in the rearview mirror at my grandfather, who was supposed to be my biggest ally, my defender. He just shot me a possum eating briars grin and winked.
Then it happened.
Horrors to horrors, it started raining.
A pop-up shower that happens on occasion in the south, where out of nowhere, huge drops of rain plopped down on the windshield with a staccato.
“It’s raining,” Granny stated the obvious. “You ain’t driving in the rain.”
This would set me up for a lifetime of thinking if it rained, I shouldn’t leave the house. Period. End of story.
Granny had said “You ain’t driving in the rain” with such authority that it was engrained as law in my brain.
“What do you want me to do?” I whimpered.
I was shaken and scared, from the sudden rain and her non-stop driving instructions since I had pulled out of the driveway. “Pull over,” she stated.
“You heard me. Pull over.”
I was within spitting distance of the church, surely I could drive the last little bit in the rain?
She looked at me with that look that could scare a rhino and said, “Did you not hear me? I said, pull over and I meant now!”
So, I did. Right into a ditch.
For a lady on her way to church, she said a lot of bad words. Or maybe, it was a good thing she was on her way to church; she could ask for a lot of forgiveness.
My grandfather in the back seat found the situation to be completely hilarious as he reached that inaudible laugh where all we heard was a wheeze, as tears poured down his cheeks.
“What do you find so dadblamed funny, Robert?” she demanded, turning around to look at him.
When he finally caught his breathe, and wiped his face, he said, “Chicken, the one time -the one time – she finally does what you tell her to, we end up in a ditch.”
I don’t remember much what happened after this; it could be I fainted from the sheer trauma and stress of the situation. We did make it to church somehow.
My friend Melody, who was also my first boss and lived up the road from us, heard about this situation and decided she was the only one brave enough to take on the task, so she offered to teach me how to drive. I put us in a ditch on another raining night, too.
“You will drive when you are 30,” I repeated, shaking off the memories of being pulled out of the dirt by a stranger.
“People are not cognitively able to make the types of split second decisions needed when driving, Cole. It is a scientific fact and has been proven their brain is not developed until they are at least 25 years of age to make those types of spatial differentials.”
I had read something similar a while back. And it had enough big words to confuse him for a while.
Just in case of a rebuttal, I added: “And no buts, not cuts, no coconuts – what I say goes.”
He groaned. I had won, this round anyway.
I have six more years to come up with a better argument. Or at least a better lie.