There were days when I thought I’d take her to college still riding in the backseat, comfortably sitting in her booster. When they told us to keep her facing backward until she was a year old or 20 pounds, I felt guilty as I turned her crying eyes around even while she weighed in at two pounds shy.
Roll, won’t you come roll with me slow, fast, full speed
Girl wherever sweet time takes us
When she grew out of her second car seat, we invested in a five-point harnessed booster to fit her small frame. Even as her friends retired their boosters, we kept her seated higher, fitted into the crook of the seat belt in the corner of the backseat.
Hang, with me down this old road
Only God knows where we’ll go
Don’t matter long as I’ve got your love
She complained that it wasn’t fair. I explained that when we log 25,000 miles a year up and down our winding mountain road, that this was not a negotiation.
I don’t ever want to wake up
Lookin’ into someone else’s eyes
This was the year she would give up our nightly Harry Potter readings, her stuffed animal obsession,
Another voice calling me [mama]
On the other end of the phone
This was the year she moved to the front seat, got her own cell phone, and grew into a girl that sometimes takes me a moment to recognize as she walks out to the car after school or answers the call from her dad.
A new girl puttin’ on her makeup
Before dinner on Friday night
This is the year that I sometimes forget she is only ten. That we both teeter, one foot on each side of the divide that will bring us into, out of, and through her teenage years. Before we both know it, I’m sure we will be arguing over curfews and clothes. We’ll be slamming doors and saying things we both regret. We’ll be putting on makeup side-by-side at the bathroom sink and sharing the same shoe size. We’ll be talking about boys, booze, and breakups. She’ll take the keys and I’ll ride along.
No I don’t ever wanna know, oh oh
No other shotgun rider, beside me, singin’ to the radio
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I stop and look, I can see the ten she is right now: purple hair and braces filling her smile. And every now and then, when I stop and look, she lets me glimpse the girl she was at nine, the one in the booster seat. At eight, the one spooning brownies onto fro-yo. At seven and six and five, crying when we forgot one of the stuffed pups at home. At four and three and two, singing along to Pink or Taylor Swift in the backseat. At one, saying “Mama, you my best fred.” And at the moment she graced this place with her presence, looking into my eyes.
I see her as she is, my shotgun rider, for now.
*Lyrics from Tim McGraw’s 2014 hit “Shotgun Rider.”
I’m participating in the 10th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day four of the thirty-one-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!