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first time

Don't you just love it when your kid's face lights up? Birthday ... summer holidays ... dinner -- ah, these were all great moments in my childhood. But as a kid, is there a moment you look forward to more than your first time behind the wheel of a car?

I took Ed driving last night. I haven't had so much fun in a parking lot since ... well, since I took Imo driving a couple of years ago. Climbing over me into the driver's seat, adjusting it and checking the mirrors, Ed wore an expression of solemn joy -- not the gut-laugh of belly-flops and farts, but the serious high happiness of achievement.

For the next twenty minutes we went back and forth, and left and right, and forward and reverse and forward again. My smile got wider and wider as Ed got closer and closer to a mystical oneness with self and machine. I'm surprised that there isn't a car called the Nirvana. Maybe the idea would be too peaceful, conjuring up a sense of immobility behind the wheel. (Mind you, there's a car called the Armada, which to me conjures up the idea of an immense body of ships crashing. )

They seem so mature, teenagers, but they aren't. Their souls are still fresh and sensitive. They are vulnerable to pain, and also to joy. That's why they make so many reckless decisions, fall in love so completely and so distastrously. They can be possessed by feeling in a way that we, with our old leather-skinned souls, can remember only vaguely.

Yeah, leather-skinned sounds about right. We have lived long enough to be kicked around by life, punted up and down the field by chance and choice, will and time. We know so much more than teenagers -- but we have paid dearly for our wisdom. The closest we can come is to experience vulnerability through them. Which can mean bailing them out or rushing them to the hospital; or taking them for the first drive around a parking lot.


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