It was my first experience with black ice. Approaching a stop sign on a narrow country road, I braked and the van slid. My ten year old son and I were silent for tense moments while we spun and I tried to remember or intuit how to respond on ice. We stopped, still miraculously on the road, front tires lined up on the edge of the deep ditch in the opposite lane. Thankful – and proud – of keeping us on the road, I took a deep breath. My son was the first to speak, “I wish Dad was driving”.
Maybe he thought I’d suddenly gone crazy, forgotten how to drive. Maybe he knew we’d hit ice. No matter, I understand his response. My husband is a good man and a safe driver. When you are young, a good dad at the wheel gives a sense of security.
My Dad was a much better man than driver. They called it “Sunday driving”, looking around more than at the road. But Dad drove when our family traveled, and Mom kept an eye on the road. My spot in the car was always the seat behind the driver. I imagine this was so Mom could get out of the passenger seat and assist my younger sister on her side, leaving Dad the older kid who needed less help.
We made frequent trips to visit grandparents, less than two hours away, and good friends, a four hour drive. We sang to entertain ourselves as a trip began. Mom taught us School Days and My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon. Dad led on Don’t Fence Me In, Every Day with Jesus, and Maresy Doats. They harmonized together on We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money, as we “traveled along, singing our song, side by side”. We sang in the sunshine, looking for familiar landmarks, excitement growing until, at last, we were there!
It was often late as we drove home. More subdued, tired from the fun, we sang and talked less. I loved the ride home, especially on a starlit summer night. Dad would keep a window vented for a cool breeze. Curled up on the seat behind him, the breeze in my face, I was alone counting the stars, dreaming my dreams. Alone, cocooned with my family and happy memories of the day.
Despite his Sunday driving, the car never wrecked, just the family. Singing and family road trips ended, and before long I was at the wheel myself. But I can still remember the sense of contentment and security I felt when Dad drove us home.