1. Have children.
2. Raise them.
When I was a kid, my very favorite chore was cutting the grass because it carried the hallowed perk of moving the cars around the yard to do it. And when you're 12 years old? There is absolutely nothing more exciting than driving a car by yourself. Even if it's only 100 feet.
Y'all, I had been driving since I was 6 or 7. I've mentioned this. I was...highly confident.
And one particularly hot afternoon, I sat in Mom's 4 door Honda Civic and contemplated the conditions: Dad was off doing whatever it was he did, Mom was napping (Mom never napped?!), the air from the A/C was ice cold and smelled like freshly cut grass. The smell of freedom was intoxicating. R. Kelly was loudly and convincingly telling me He Believed I Could Fly.
Yessir, it was a perfect day to take my first solo spin around the block.
Unremarkably, I did so. I wore my seat belt. I observed the speed limit, I stopped at stop signs. I checked my rearviews. Hell, I even used the turn signals. I met nary an automobile or pedestrian. The trip was approximately 35 seconds.
R. Kelly, I get it! I DO believe I can fly!
And as guided the stealthy Civic into its final right turn back onto Park Avenue, I pondered the end of my maiden voyage.
If an unlicensed driver operates a vehicle around a city block and doesn't see or hit another car, did it actually happen?
No one would ever know of my expert navigation. . .well, until the next day at school, when it would be the first thing I told my friends. Unless I couldn't wait that long and I told them immediately.
And then I saw her.
In the middle of the street in front of our house. Pointed in the exact direction I was coming from. As if she knew exactly what I was doing. Hands on her hips, with literally, the scariest look I've ever seen on anyone's face.
As I pulled carefully and responsibly into the driveway, I avoided her stare. (She was also yelling, but the windows were rolled up and R. Kelly was still mocking me, thankfully).
I knew...I'd never leave the house again. ...I'd never see my friends again. ...AOL would be canceled. ...I might never live to see another episode of Friends or ER. We'd only had cable for a year.. That would be gone, too...She'd dance crazily around a fire in our back yard, stoked with my most favorite articles of clothing: Adidas striped track pants and Nike AirMax shoes...and lucky hair scrunchies. Those were goners, for sure.
My hand hesitated on the gear shift. Throw it back in drive and never come back? My fate was written, anyway.
As I recall, she got herself together fairly quickly, but nothing prepared me for the next few weeks. Sure, I was 'grounded.' No TV... or computer.. or something.
But Mom. . . she walked around the house like a kicked puppy. Wouldn't really talk to me. When our eyes would meet, I saw only sadness and disappointment. (Obviously, she knew what she was doing.)
She was baffled. . . never thinking I was capable of such irresponsibility and stupidity.
In retrospect, this is probably more equivalent to the time I spent the night with Papa Kes and Grandmother and cut my own hair after I was supposed to be in bed.
In any case, I was officially out of the circle of trust.
She came around eventually. She had to. I was an only child. A one-shot deal. She couldn't afford to toss the baby out with the bath water.
Still, I didn't understand it for many years.
I used turn signals! No one even saw me! It was an entirely calculated risk! I didn't drive to the beach! I was gone for 30 seconds. It was all rather. . .responsible!
Yesterday, I herded Harper and Henry into the door while I juggled bags filled with the components of dinner. As I wrangled Henry into a high chair and armed him with enough snacks to get us through the ground beef browning process,
Harper clomped upstairs to get..something.. "I be back in a second."
I didn't think another thing about it.
For years now, I've been following her every move. Since we moved into our house, I've followed her upstairs mere seconds after she's made every such proclamation, only to find her sitting on my bed reading books or playing with toys in her bedroom. While she be fierce, a naughty girl, she isn't.
When she'd been gone a couple of minutes, I called up to her, "Harp, come downstairs and tell me what you're up to."
A minute later, she unassumingly, innocently & excitedly slid into the kitchen. . a pouf of yellow, glittery polyester Disney's Belle. . .which is the norm.
"Whatcha doing up there?"
"Momma, I made your dress (brand new! never worn! 90% off coup from Belk!) gorgeous! I snipped snipped snipped with the snizzors. It's just your size!"
..delivered so proudly, that I absolutely couldn't even be mad about the dress or the..
three air holes in the arm of my favorite pink and white striped oxford Polo, as well as my brand new pink tshirt, a black turtleneck, three maternity shirts, two tank tops, Brandon's red Polo and also some new fringe on one of his t-shirts.
All of which is rather remarkable, considering I didn't even know she could use scissors. . . or that there were any upstairs - hark!, under the sink enclosed in a box filled with Brandon's hair-cutting equipment.
I get you, Mom. I get you, now.