When my older cousin and I got bored, we thought of the stupidest things to do to fill the time. Like, one summer we dared each other to see who could get more pieces of bubble gum in their mouth. One time, we would take stacks of saltine crackers to see who could shove more in their mouths. She always won because she has a scary huge mouth. Before either one of us had a license to drive, we were making bonehead decisions. Including when we taught each other how to drive.
My parents would go out on weekends and leave my brothers and me to fend for ourselves. Since I couldn’t have friends over while I was supposed to be watching my little bros, instead I got to have my older cousin come kick it. One Saturday night, we decided to teach each other how to drive with my dad’s stick shift, Chevy Nova, circa 1981. Yes, a stick shift.
As soon as we figured out that you have to push in the clutch to start the car, our weekends were booked. All without my parents knowing any different (as far as I knew). This little secret between my cousin and me – well, and my two little brothers (and tbh, the entire neighborhood) – solved our summer boredom and taught us a few lessons.
The first time we took the car, we got stuck at the top of the hill, only a block away from my house. After several panic attacks, we slid it into neutral, pushed her a bit, and guided her back down the hill and into my driveway. Several trial and error memories make their way back into my mind. However, I still am acutely aware of how very dangerous we acted, and scarier is that I only realized that when I became a parent myself. #nottoolate
My cousin was the one who figured out how to get the damn thing out of the driveway, and of course, she was a natural-born driver. It was different for me. I have zero coordination and am a clutz fantastically.
We ran out of gas once.
Got stuck at the top of my street’s hill and couldn’t figure out how to get home.
We got it stuck in front of my middle school in the snow. That was so stupid.
Finally, after some vigorous training, I felt comfortable enough to show off a bit; I earned it. I invited my two best friends over and took them out on the “ave”. A little hesitant but oh so excited to finally act grown, we all had a huge secret and literally looked to the weekend with way too much excitement.
Yeah, one little ride didn’t go as well as we had hoped, BUT no one got hurt. Kudos to me! As I was showing off with loud music and laughter, I ended up getting a little too close to the cars parked on the right side of the street and inadvertently sideswiped one of those. A clip to both cars’ side mirrors, that was the extent of the damage but I remember almost pissing myself. After that street, no one talked, the radio went off, and we silently played out every viable nightmare imaginable in our little brains.
When I saw my rooftop as I came up over the hill, my heart rate slowed closer to normal. Tammy and Tracy frea-ked out on each other and started screaming, blaming the other for distracting me. I had to think. I had to hide the damage from my dad, and he had to buy it. That last part was the important part, and it wasn’t clear I could sell my father on…anything, really. He’s a tough cookie.
What I told my parents was laughable and unbelievable. I keep thinking, hindsight. Right? I was 13-years old and scared to hell, what did I know? I got Tammy and Tracy to shut it down and take off, making them promise to keep their lips zipped. I awaited my fate in my room holding my breath until I heard my dad.
“Jennifer!! What the hell happened to the car?”
I came downstairs like I was physically in pain and, of course, overly emotional.
(It should have been my middle name because I was all of it and then some.)
See, what I told them was,
“Oh my gosh, Dad! I didn’t even hear you come home! It was so scary! The car was just sitting in the driveway and these three older teenagers were walking on the street when Tommy yelled something at them that made them mad – and oh, Dad! You should have seen them. They started hitting the car with their baseball bat and the only damage I saw was the side mirror, but it was so scary!”
(Right? I had even taken a tiny compact mirror from my new purse and smashed it right underneath the car’s side mirror to make it look real. I really thought nothing wrong with this excuse at the time.)
My dad didn’t buy it, and I was such a moron to think I could pull off an excuse that unbelievable. He told me to go upstairs and sit in my room until I could tell him the truth. I played dumb, pleading with him that I told him the truth.
Obviously, I got grounded. One whole month I could do nothing and I couldn’t get my learners’ permit until I turned 15-years-old. More importantly,
I got grounded from the Richard Marx concert.
After that fiasco, they wrote down the mileage when they left, which was a big bummer for my little bro. It was eerily similar to the way they used to mark their liquor bottles to make sure we weren’t drinking while they went out…with their friends…for drinks. That is until Christmas came around and they noticed that ol’ BV & Coke wasn’t as potent per usual. My bro and I added water to the bottle of liquor to get those lines to match up. We weren’t bad kids, really. Just bored. And you know what they say,
“Heirlooms we don’t have in our family.
But stories we’ve got.”
– Rose Cherin (2008)