My life changed the second she came back from the Driver’s License test with a smile on her face and asked for the car keys. There are, of course, the positives which I try to remember. I can send her on errands, when she bleeds me dry of my change. “No Mom, the gallon of milk really did cost $14.65 and the machine ran out of tape so I couldn’t get a receipt.” I can have her pick up her sisters after their activities, when they say things like “I sat on a bowl Mom and I never want to ride with her again,” or “she left me on a dirt road for hours and I thought I was going to die alone and lost.” I don’t have to drive her to work anymore, but then sometimes I wonder if she has a job or if she dresses up in her uniform and name tag and drives around in circles on dirt roads just because she can.
I try to focus on the positives, but it is hard to do when I hold my breathe every time I jump in, dreading the first inhale of stale cigarette smoke. “I don’t smoke in the car, Mom.” “I don’t smoke at all.” Why is there a burn hole in the passenger seat? “I have no idea.” Why are there ashes in the plastic wrapper from a pack of cigarettes in the driver’s door? “I don’t know.” Why are there pink boys shorts in the back seat?” “Those are mumble-mumble’s and we went swimming.” Is there a naked wet boy running around somewhere looking for his missing shorts? “Nooooo, MOM!”
There are new cords hanging out of the cigarette lighter every time I get in I finally wrapped them around the satellite radio dock so I wouldn’t strangle myself and become unable to call for help. Candy wrappers, McDonalds bags, makeup without covers, her license, her bank card, and empty soda bottles roll around under the seats every time I take a corner. The windshield had so much splatter on it that tonight I couldn’t see to drive down the street into the sun and was driving blind for longer than I care to admit. I drive with all the windows down and the air on full just to not get high from the 3rd hand smoke. I throw my hair around so that anyone who is watching thinks I’m enjoying the wind, but really I am just sucking in the fresh air.
I catch her chewing on the keys while laying on the couch. I don’t know which is worse, her germs on the keys or the $12,000 set of teeth she’s destroying. She begs for her own car but can’t save enough money to buy one, “I can’t save money, Mom.” She begs me to help her get a car loan, co-sign, but if she can’t save she can’t pay and I am working hard on my own debt. I think she’s trying to ruin my car so that I’ll give it to her, but the second she’s done with it I’m going to lysol it down and give it to the next kid, who says she’s going to get her permit this weekend.
And someday when I am out of debt and I have a nice clean vehicle, someday when I’m in my 60’s, my teenage son will ask for the keys.