We’ve come full-circle.
Three hundred and sixty-two days ago, my eldest daughter and I were in a car accident. She had her permit and was merging onto the freeway the first time. It was the very definition of an accident—it was no one’s fault—but it totaled our old minivan and ruined Emma for driving until the pavement warmed up and dried off in spring.
Three hundred sixty-two days ago, I realized how illusory my sense of control is and exactly how much I love my children.
I worried how Emma would respond to the snow this winter. Today the question was answered definitively: We have another licensed driver in family. Congratulations, Rosebud. You deserve it—and I know you’ll be careful out there. You know better than most.
I love you, girl.
Blogger’s Note: Most of this post was meant to be the beginning of the annual Thorp family Christmas letter. At this point, we plan to send you all Valentines…
The morning is cold, black, and bitter, like the dregs of yesterday’s coffee left in the car overnight. The thin crescent moon seems a galaxy away; the stars, more ice than fire; the jagged air catches in your throat, and the wind seems to strip life, layer by layer, from your shrunken, shivered form.
It is easy, on mornings like this, to justify staying abed, comfortable and warm beside your lover; to shut off the alarm, burrow into blankets and dreams, and await the sun. On mornings like this it’s hard—and perhaps undesirable—to imagine those who live outdoors in this weather, for whom the blue ache of cold is chiefly a sign they have not died in the night. That which you can feel is not yet frozen.
These are not pleasant thoughts on an early winter morning, when you’d rather be asleep, but they are also nothing a hot shower and coffee won’t cure.
Absolute comfort corrupts absolutely.
A week ago Friday, Emma and I went for a drive. The purpose was to get her on the freeway for the first time—on Saturday, we were heading to Bismarck to visit friends, and that long drive straight west is a great opportunity to get practice hours behind the wheel. We had planned to take the Suburban, but Emma had less experience and comfort with the Blue Beast, so we opted to take the minivan. It is getting older, but it’s my daily driver and a little easier for a new driver to manage.
Emma has been doing well in her driving thus far. She is focused and attentive and rarely gets rattled. She has driven 55 to 60 miles per hour on regular roads and has experience in town traffic, but this was to be her first time on the freeway. I drove us westward on I-94, away from the Cities and end-of-the-workday traffic, reminding her as we went of what she had learned in class: merging, moving over for entering traffic, blind spots, etc. She admitted she was nervous, but no more so than trying any other new thing behind the wheel. I offered that we should get off at the Hasty exit, and that she could drive toward Maple Lake on regular roads a bit before we looped back and got on the freeway. And so we did.
The sun was setting as we approached the freeway and turned right onto the eastbound ramp. Westbound traffic was still heavy; eastbound, not so much. So far so good. I talked her through the merge as we headed down the ramp, and she responded: Get up to speed. Signal. Check your blind spot…
A vehicle was in the near lane, closing on us. We both saw it; it was difficult to tell if they were letting us in, and Emma said so. We looked forward at roughly the same time and saw we were coming off the ramp and onto the shoulder, which was covered with a thin layer of slushy snow. The van began to fishtail.
When we heard last week that snow was moving in, I told the kids that one of my favorite parts of raising a puppy is seeing his or her reaction to firsts…in this case, Bruno’s first ever snow. When the skies finally opened Friday morning, he did not disappoint.
Bruno wakes up on puppy time, which means he can be a little sluggish until he gets wound up. Usually by the time we take our morning walk, however, he’s ready to go. On Friday, however, I opened the door to windblown white flakes, and Bruno stopped short of stepping outside. He stared a moment and then, as if to feign nonchalance, put his big front paws on the front stoop and stre-e-e-e-e-etched, glancing around all the while. He stepped outside, slowly put his front paws down a step, and stretched again, subtly sniffing the white and windy air around him.
And again with the last step down only to sidewalk: Gotta act casual…but what is this stuff? Continue reading