The car was stopped in the middle of our street; the driver’s door wide open. The only evidence of a potential driver was the young girl running up the driveway…my older sister. The front door opened and slammed, followed by the rapid pitter of steps as my sister ran up the stairs to her room…a second door slammed exactly 5 seconds after the first; a record I surmised…the girl could certainly move fast!
Back in the car, my father sat in the front passenger seat. He adjusted the radio knob, moving through static until a song of his liking filled the speakers. Connie Francis! Not one to waste a good moment, he sat back and listened…alone in the car…in the middle of our street.
I stood next to my brother as we peered out from behind the living room curtains toward the street. We had anticipated their return. In addition to the entertainment value of watching our sister have her first driving lesson, we also had a vested interest in the outcome as we were next in line. Setting a bad precedent now could have lasting effects on the most formidable years of our lives.
The curtains had only now returned to their place against the window, having fluttered from the rush of air pushed by the slamming door. From our perspective behind the curtains, things did not appear to have gone well…not well at all!
When things didn’t go well, my older sister had a reputation for sending herself to her room, much to the chagrin of my parents who had to be inventive in regards to alternative punishments. “Go to the living room and watch TV…with your brother!” And the pièce de résistance…“Answer all of his questions!” He was infamous for interrupting the flow of a show with questions…countless questions! As for my sister, it was a safe assumption that if she was storming to her room, something had not gone to her liking. But looks and sounds can be deceiving.
Back behind the curtains, my brother and I came to the quick realization that our father would be next through the door and that the sheer curtains did not provide us sufficient protection from his need to share the lesson of the day. We dispersed to our friends’ homes with the thought that we would likely have to rely on these friends for rides for the rest of our teenage lives! Unbeknownst to us, my father remained in the car in the middle of our street. The driver’s door remained open; Tom Jones now sang on the radio and my sister remained in her room.
The lesson had started about an hour before. My sister was nervous, but upbeat…my father was just nervous, which lead to extraordinary planning…checklists, driving guides, maps, Rolaids®…all neatly packed inside the glove compartment, available in short order. Well…that wasn’t true…but he had selected the desolation of an empty industrial parking lot near our home to teach our sister the basics. If necessary, he’d have hundreds of yards of clear space in every direction to get things back under control. From our vantage point behind the curtains, we watched them successfully navigate down our street…my father in the driver’s seat…so far so good! My sister adjusted the radio knob, moving through static until a song of her liking filled the speakers. Barry Manilow! My father winced and instinctively increased his foot pressure on the accelerator. They turned the corner heading out of our neighborhood, moving quickly out of our view.
And that’s about the extent of what my brother and I witnessed from behind the curtains…the circumstances of their departure and the aftermath of their return, right before we headed out of Dodge! It’s the story we’ve been telling for years…about our dad, left alone in the car in the middle of our street and a sister, who sent herself to her room. A lesson gone bad!
My sister exited the car and in her eagerness to get to her room, neglected to close the car door. Preoccupied with the task, she ran quickly up the driveway, blind to the two boys peering at her through the sheer curtains that framed our living room window. She opened the screen door, pushing back on it hard as her momentum carried her up the stairs. The broken spring on the door allowed the door to slam loudly. At the top of the stairs, she turned right and moved quickly toward her room at the end of the hall. Her mind raced with memories of the past hour’s events. She was full of emotion, which expressed itself outwardly in a second incident of adrenaline induced strength, exactly five seconds after the first. She pushed firmly on her bedroom door causing it to slam loudly against the side wall. Downstairs, her brothers reacted to the noise by exiting the house through the back door.
My dad was still waiting patiently in the car in the middle of our street, when my older sister ran back down the driveway in complete obscurity. At the car, she sat down in the driver seat and closed the door. “Did you find it?” my dad asked. “I did!” she responded. “Are you sure you want to do this?” My sister looked at my dad before replying. She put the change purse, which she had just found in her bedroom, down on the center console. She buckled her seatbelt, asking her dad to do the same. Putting the car into gear, they successfully navigated down our street…my sister in the driver’s seat. “Today has been a very good day…you’re a wonderful teacher…thanks dad…ice cream’s on me!” They turned the corner heading out of our neighborhood, moving quickly out of nobody’s view. “My Girl” by the Temptations played on the radio. 🎶 “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…” 🎶
…maybe we just missed the lesson of the day!