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Driving lesson

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Riding with a learning-to-drive daughter is an education. I think I'm teaching her, with my knowing silences, my subtle hand signals and nods, for turns well taken, lanes well changed.

When she's in the passenger seat, she's teaching me with her, "Dad, you're crossing the yellow line," and "Seat belt, Dad." She does listen when I mention as calmly as possible that changing the CD while driving is more difficult than it looks and, in fact, might be better done at a stop light.

In the morning we're on school-bus-schedule routine. Once a week we see a school bus coming in the other direction at the same intersection. The bus is just starting to slow down. A mother waits with her child at the curb, weighted down with his back pack. She is there every day, watching that her child, her baby, makes it safely onto that bus.

Some days a car or two will pass the bus in the other direction, all perfectly legal, the bus not yet having displayed its own stop sign. It's all slow motion in the rush, rush morning world.

My own daughter beside me, I always stop, and savor that transition. The parent waiting until the child is safely seated, blowing a kiss, nodding an, "OK, now you can put it in gear" to the bus driver, watchdogging the cars lined up on either side of the road, slowly walking back to her car, alone.

Mea culpa. I roll through yellow lights to get to work/school/"the store" on time. I double park. I've parked for two hours sometimes in a 30-minute parking spot. I've even left my car unattended in the clearly labeled "drop off lane only." I knocked over a parking cone at the airport last month (by mistake, officer). But seeing that mom, watching that child, each morning in a precious moment. That's me, with my child, too. She's right next to me, soaking up every moment, every lesson. I know it's really me soaking up those moments. Believe me, it's just one lesson. In a car, there's no better metaphor for "moving on," for "being on my own," for "leaving." If only it was as easy as fastening a seat belt.

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