"And I want you to know..."
"Stop singing!" my sister Alex yelled at me.
I changed over to lip-synching, but kicked up the volume on my ipod a couple notches. "I couldn't have loved you better..."
We were on our way home from shopping, driving up the hill that connects main road to the unpaved road in front of our house. My dad hit the brakes just after he turned onto our road. "Hey, girl-with-permit, want to get us to the driveway?"
I dropped my ipod. "...wait, what?"
He put the van into park and put on the parking brake, unbuckled, got up and said, "Switch me seats, Bee."
I slipped out my earbuds, got up, slid past him and switched him seats, trying not to think about what all this meant. My first time... right now?
I sat down and stretched my feet out to the pedals. My dad, now sitting in my place on the second row of seats, and my mom, in the passenger seat next to me, talked me through adjusting the seat and wheel. I buckled in. They talked me through taking off the parking brake and putting it in drive. I put my hands on the wheel. Then, finally, my dad said, "Okay... Give it a little gas."
Please, God, do not let me wreck anything or hurt anyone... I gave it a little...too much.
The van jerked forward. I yanked my foot off the gas. The van slowed down, stopped, and began to pick up speed again, moving backwards.
"Brake!" yelled my mom. I stamped on the brake. The van jolted to a stop.
Alex attempted to keep from giggling. She failed miserably.
"Gently, Bee," said my dad, in a slightly strained voice.
I wiped my hands on my jeans, put them back on the wheel, removed my foot from the brake, and lightly, gently put on the gas.
The van started forward. Slowly.
I think that was about when my mom started breathing normally again.
A few feet past the driveway, my dad said, "Okay, into reverse now." I took my foot off the gas, reached for the lever, and pulled it up to reverse, checking the display to make sure I was right.
"Brake!" yelled my mom again.
The van was rolling backwards.
I muttered a word I never say and resisted the urge to smash the brake again. Instead, I managed to put my foot on it fairly smoothly. The car came to a slightly less sudden stop than last time.
My mom took a breath. "Now, gas. To go backwards. You got it in reverse?"
I nodded, and then wasn't sure if they saw and said, "Yes." Released the brake. "It's- I'm in reverse." Put a little pressure on the gas.
The car backed up as far as where we'd started. It didn't go any further because I put on the brake in time. Gently.
My dad breathed a few times. "Very good. Want to pull forward again?"
"Sure." Lever down two to drive. Right hand back on wheel. Foot off brake and straight onto gas. Lightly. Doesn't take much...
The van jerked just a bit, then settled into a smooth pull forward. I turned the wheel just slightly, angling the wheels a bit right, away from the driveway, as I passed it.
Leah, my other sister, sitting directly behind me, realized how far I was going first. "Huh?" she said.
I smiled, looked out my mom's window to see how far away the mailbox was, started to brake. "I was letting you get the mail, Mom." Bit more gas. Back to brake. Stop. Lever up three to park. "Want it back, dad?"
He offered a barely shaky smile, unbuckling. "Yes, thanks. Not bad there, Bee." Getting up, he slid past me again as I did the same, and we both sat back down in our own seats.
Leah offered her hand for me to shake, then returned to her book.
My mother calmly reached out her window and got the mail.
Alex burst into laughter.
In the calmest voice I could manage, I said, "So, what's so funny?" I was still shaking, I realized.
"You're going to do the same thing, Alex," my mom warned her.
"Yeah," I said, relaxing as my dad backed down the driveway. "So, now when Alex starts driving, I get to laugh at her. Be warned, Alex."
"Not me?" said Leah.
"Nope. You were good."
She smiled oh-so-sweetly, but then said seriously, "So were you."
I slid back down in my seat. And grinned.