Here We Go Again
Tonight when I went into town to pickup Amelia and Brittany from work, I had a flash back to the summer of 1999. Amelia has her driving learners permit, and this was my first chance to scoot over and let her get behind the wheel. I enjoyed the ride home very much. It reminded me of when I taught my first daughter, Meagan, to drive my old pick-up truck back when we lived in Colorado.
That was during the summer of 1999, over seven years ago. But I remember that I had made a journal entry about that experience. So when I got home (and after I quit shake from fear), I pulled out my old journal entry and reread (and relived) that first experience. The memories brought smiles to my tired face, so I thought I’d go ahead and post that journal entry of seven years ago here.
An Important Lesson
Written Aug. 30, 1999
This past summer, Meagan was able to come to work with me for awhile. She had just received her drivers learners permit in time to practice driving me back and forth to work. She seemed excited to be able to really drive, until the realities of driving my old broken down pick-up set in. I didn’t think that me or my poor pick-up would survive her jack rabbit starts, grinding gears, miss shifted gears, and all the times we slipped out of gear while she tried to shift into my temperamental 5th gear. For a while, these rides really took a toll on me, my pick-up, and Meagan.
At times she begged to not have to drive again. She said she wanted to learn on mom’s car because it has an automatic transmission.
During these rides, after the traditional pop the clutch, stall out, grind the starter motor, jackrabbit start, all intermingled with my cross instructions and her cross looks back, I couldn’t help but think back on my youth.
Then suddenly Meagan pops it out of 5th gear and races the engine, followed by our tempers racing again. Finally we’re on I-76 with a straight 16 miles to relax before any more gear shifting. So my thoughts drift back to when I was learning to drive back on our egg farm.
I started out driving farm equipment. My earliest memory is of driving a farm truck out in our field. I don’t remember why I was driving it, but I do remember having to stand on the seat to see over the dashboard. Also I remember having to jump off of the seat and push on the clutch and wait for someone to get in the truck and put the transmission in neutral. Anyway, by the time I have a clear memory, I was a pretty proficient driver. It was all on our farm, and in everything, except the family car. So by the time I was about 12 years old, I thought I was the best. It was about this time that I found that I still had a lot to learn.
I happily got the job on our farm, early one spring, of running the Honey Wagon. We had large manure pits at the back of our chicken coops. Our Honey Wagon was the nickname for our liquid manure spreader. The term was quite descriptive of the manure we had, but not very descriptive of the smell.
Anyway, I was happy to do this job because I would get to drive the tractor, pulling the Honey Wagon all over our field and even several of our neighbor’s fields. The only hard part of the whole job was hooking up the 8-inch wide suction hose used to fill the tank of the Honey Wagon. This hose was very stiff, heavy, and awkward for me to handle.
I would have to back the trailer (the Honey Wagon) in just perfectly, or I just couldn’t hook the hose on to the tank for loading. To further complicate things, this was in the early springtime and the dirt roads around our manure pits were muddy and slick.
As I would try to back the Honey Wagon in, it would slide sideways or jack knife into my tractor. One day as I worked my job, everything seemed to be against me. I struggled for up to an hour each time I came back for another load just to get that Honey Wagon in the right position, so I could hook up the hose. I could feel the frustration level increase, and then my driving ability decrease. At times I was near swearing, and then I’d be crying. By the end of the day I hated the job.
That spring, I had no choice but to keep doing that dreaded job. Over a period of several weeks, my skill of backing that Honey Wagon increased until I could hit my target first time regardless of what the conditions were. It was then, that job was fun again.
Well, Meagan just turned on the turn signals, so in two more miles we will exit I-76 and go on in to Wiggins.
These rides with Meagan back and forth to work every day was a summer of ’99 highlight which I’ll remember just like learning to back a trailer was a highlight the spring of ’72.
At the end of her summer job, Meagan made a comment, which started me reminiscing again. She was pleased at how well she could manage driving my temperamental old stick shift. She said that none of her friends know how to drive a stick. So in that one thing, she was smarter than any of her friends.
Interesting how our strengths can be born out of necessity. I thought back to the blessing it was to me to have to learn to back a trailer. I think nothing of it anymore, but I see grown men who struggle with this like I did when I was 12 years old. At times in my life this talent has been a real lifesaver for me. Like when I pulled mobile homes after we closed our farm. No one I worked with was any better at parking a mobile home on the exact right spot than me. It makes me wonder about the other struggles I go through in life. From this perspective, they are all blessings in disguise. In that perspective, sometimes I feel really, really blessed. I want my children to be blessed also. I guess the trick to learn is to be happy and enjoy life even when we are so “Blessed” that we don’t have room enough to contain them. Thanks Meagan, for teaching me an important lesson of life.
So now after remembering this time I spent with Meagan, teaching her to drive a stick shift, and learning a few lessons from her in the process, I wonder what profound insights I’ll gain while teaching Amelia to drive. I love these memories of my children. And I’m looking forward to making some new ones now with Amelia. So watch out all you other drivers. Here we go again.