It was a regular Monday evening, except for that it wasn’t.
She drove herself to practice today. In her own car.
She loaded up her gear in the trunk, hopped in the driver’s seat with a quick swish of her pulled up in a pile blonde hair, wearing her black softball pants with the hole in the knee, started the car and drove herself the longest 6 miles of my life to the field where she has been practicing for as long as I can remember. Without me…
I stood at the front door a long time, watching her tail lights disappear out of sight, around the corner of our street and into the dusk and then, I cried like a baby.
Just yesterday, and I swear it was just yesterday – her and I were at Wal-Mart picking out a hot pink batting helmet and choosing a bat just the right length based on the colors she liked best for her first t-ball practice. Her pink and white glove barely fit her tiny hand, and she flinched every time – the entire season in fact – that anyone threw a ball at her.
Once that season, she ran the bases backwards, and slid over home plate like she was diving into a pool – that same blonde ponytail flopping around her face. When she stood up, she looked over at me in the bleachers and threw up her hands as if she had just won the race of a lifetime. That was her first ‘homerun’ and it didn’t matter that she ran it backwards, or that she was out before she crossed home plate.
That was the moment she fell in love with this game. The exact moment. And after this game we went for Pizza and she got a birthday cake flavored Sunday with sprinkles on top and told our waitress that she had hit a home-run!
Then in the blink of an eye – years pass and the rides to practice and lessons were our time. Sometimes her friends joined us, and the car smelled of french fries and cleats and was full of laughter and giggles and chatter. We got icees on the way home that left their smiles stained with blue and red mustaches.
Some of these same friends are still around, and during those car rides to practice, and then to games, and then home for spend the night parties afterwards, I got to know them and love them and feel as if they too…were my daughters. And now, they are all driving themselves to practice.
Some days the ride to practice was filled with her trying to get homework done and cram for tests, a little frustrated trying to juggle it all.
Other times, it was then, during that ride – that she told me her deepest and darkest feelings, that we became friends and I got to see my daughter as the person that others see her as, and be her friend.
Other days she talked about the exciting events that happen to young girls growing up right before your eyes. She laughed and she smiled and she chattered endlessly about things.
Often, it was during these rides that I gave her advice from everything about her softball swing, to boys, to problems with friends…Other times we talked about her future and her plans and her hopes and her dreams.
Sometimes, admittedly, I wished she’d just be quiet but I knew that this day…today….was coming.
And now, here we are. (And you will be too one day!)
Over the years that I drove her to practice, I never really thought seriously about this day. I knew it was coming, but who knew it would come this fast? Who knew it would happen to us?
Who knew how much on the very first day she drove herself, I would miss being the one to chauffeur her around, to listen to her endless stories, to be in the drivers seat while she went from an ice cream cone eating, pink helmeted backward home-run earning t-baller – to a chatty pre-teen, to a phone scrolling zombie teenager beside me – to now, a kid that can drive herself to practice all by herself.
And here I stand, at the front door, replaying the last 11 years in my mind.
A reminiscent highlight reel of some of the happiest moments in my parental life, spent in the car with my daughter on the drive to practice, while I got to know her as not just my daughter, but my friend.