When I first started driving I used to change my shoes. Crazy, right? But every time I got behind the wheel I would swap out whatever late 90s number I was trying desperately to pull off (think a cheap version of Doc Martens) and slip into something more comfortable, like black leather ballet flats (sexy, I know). I wore them in a very third rate production of West Side Story, and trust me when I say the shoes were one of the more memorable highlights of this shoddily staged spectacular.
For whatever ridiculous reason those shoes were magic for me, like the ruby slippers (I know, I’m comparing Sondheim and oranges here). It took many years for me to learn how to drive and many replacement ballet flats before my neurosis was curbed, Officer Krupke.
In hindsight I guess, it just wasn’t one of those things that ever came naturally to me, like baking or cooking or pretty much anything domestic or maternal. So when my eldest got behind the wheel for the first time and didn’t (gasp) change her shoes, I of course had my concerns. Was she mature enough? Was she confident enough? But more importantly, was she in possession of the proper pumps? I mean, was she even aware that heels were not only impractical but seriously miscast in the role of “Responsible Student Driver”?
As a teenager, I drove the car exactly once with my own mother in tow. Twenty-four years later I’m still waiting for her to recover. So I guess it was not only fitting but all too karmic that we didn’t so much as leave the driveway before I was on the phone with my father, pleading — no, begging, I was very much begging him — to teach her to drive and my mother to buy her some appropriate footwear.
I’m a terrible teacher. I should not be teaching anyone anything, ever except maybe the lyrics to “Officer Krupke,” which, oddly enough, I still remember. What I don’t remember is how to parallel park or back into a parking space without the use of back up sensors (honestly, what did we do before?) and forget about that whole K-turn operation or Y-turn or broken U-turn or whatever letter of the alphabet that very diabolical driving maneuver deigns to disguise itself as.
I passed my own driving test, but just barely. It must have been the shoes. The guy seemed nice. It was the end of the day. Story of my life, quite literally. I botched the K turn badly and I was so far from the curb, I think he actually told me to mind the gap and the backing up thing?
My very first (and only … I’ll go dig out that evil eye necklace now) accident was in my old Subaru backing into a very new Porsche Cayenne. Dear Officer Krupke, I was very upset, as was the man, who was clearly still in the very new stages of infatuation with his midlife man car.
Driving isn’t easy, neither is parenting. Doing them in tandem? Not exactly Sondheim in my sleep. We’re never not in the car, never without a teachable moment even on days when they seem, let’s face it, so unteachable. I finally got back in the car with my eldest recently and, while my life right down to my underwhelming rendition of “America” unquestionably flashed before me, I was impressed — and not only with her ability to avoid all Porsche Cayennes but with her confidence and maturity.
“You’re doing great,” I told her.
“I know,” she beamed.
Teenagers. So humble.
I glanced down at her feet, admiring the pretty pair of flats she had chosen for her permit test.
“Nice kicks,” I said, as she pulled into the parking lot.
“Yeah. People don’t really say that anymore.”
She passed with flying Joseph-and-the-Techni- (I’m so not a Lloyd Webber fan) colors, flashing a shiny new ID in my direction. I waited for her to click her flats three times but she just got in the car. There’s no place like home or the DMV. It must have been the shoes.
Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.