Well, Kate's been driving for 72 hours when she has her first accident.
In our driveway.
This is the first morning she has to back the car out to turn it around; Dave and I have been doing it for her. I watch her in case she needs guiding, but no, the kid can back perfectly. When it's time to drive forward to exit, she turns the corner going left, going around the house where I can't see her, and I'm thinking, "Dang, she drives better than I can," when I hear a soft, muffled crunchy sound.
I think, "Wha--? Surely that was nothing. She must have run over a stick or something." I start to go into the house but change my mind.
Walking around the corner, I see that she has continued to turn left, so that instead of continuing straight down the driveway, she's veered into a flowerbed and made contact with a large crepe myrtle. There's a round, dirt-smudged cave-in about 14 inches in diameter on Ishmael's (Kate named the car after reading Moby Dick) front left fender, which is now squished down almost to the tire. There are about 12 inches of black tire tread on the tree.
Tire marks on a tree?
By the time I get to her, she has already pulled the car out of this strange position, but the curved tire marks arcing through the flowerbed make it easy to see what has happened. In order to get the car into this spot, she would have been just inches from the side of the house.
She is sobbing, Lucille Ball-style.
"My coffee mug was tipping over! I only looked down for a second! Are you gonna tell Dad? (huge gulp of air) He's gonna be so ma-ha-haaaaaaad! Aaaaaa!"
Kate has this Starbucks thermal mug her friend Aubrey personalized for her Sweet 16. She loves it. Its plastic outer liner holds pictures from musicals and bits and pieces of Kate's show scripts (a great gift idea, by the way).
I snatch the mug, saying something about, "NO drinks, no phone, no iPod, until you get used to driving." After about ten minutes she calms down and I decide it she doesn't drive herself to school this very morning she will be forced to take buses and cabs for the rest of her life. I tell her to proceed with extreme caution and to text me the nanosecond she gets to school.
Fifteen minutes later, my cell phone beeps.
I'm at school okay. I am so sorry and so stupid
Everyone goes on with their day. At school, Kate gets teased by the choir teacher, who has heard the story from me. She laughs about it. She returns home, and texts:
home again, home again, jiggety jig
After school she tells me in her best grownup voice she knows how to be careful and can she please go pick Braeden up and take him to Tinseltown. I say, "Okay with me, but you have to clear it with Dad and that means telling all about the morning's debacle."
Of course, the whole reason we saved my old clunker car was that Dave predicted this day would come. The steel-caged, airbag-equipped 1993 Volvo sedan has 240,000 miles, a few dents and dings, and an N.A.D.A. book value of well, nada. So I figure Dave will be okay, maybe a little crabby.
Kate starts crying again when she tells him about the morning. He takes it well; he's actually quite fatherly, calm and sympathetic.
Until he sees the car.
Then he lets out this sound: "Huuuuaagh!" like someone just shot him in the back. The expletives start flying. Now I have to talk HIM down. I start considering a career in counseling.
Then he sees the tree.
"HOW? HOW? HOW did you do this?"
More blubbering from my daughter, whose eye makeup now looks like something from Children of the Corn.
Later at dinner, I say a blessing, talking to our Heavenly Father mostly on Kate's behalf. Jack and Dave and I are suppressing laughter over my gratitude and requests while Kate is in tears again. Miraculously, albeit after an endless lecture, my husband kindly tells Kate she can go pick Braeden up from the Appleby's where his parents have taken him to dinner, about a mile from our house.
Kate slowly drives away. About 10 seconds later, she calls me.
She's at the end of the driveway.
"Uh, which way is Appleby's?" I do not believe my ears.
So David tells her to follow him to the street to Appleby's and I am thinking, "Are we insane? Are we crazy to let her out on the streets?"
Well, are we?
I guess I'll find out in exactly three and a half hours when the battered old Volvo pulls into the driveway.