With dance and choir, and now work shifts for Fenya since November, it is not uncommon for me to have a few quiet hours alone in the house on weekday evenings. Tonight felt a little different, somehow, and it took me a while to discern why; there are no vehicles at the house.
Audrey has taken Glory to dance in St. Albert and will mail the remaining Christmas cards and do a little shopping, so there is no point in her driving back to Edmonton. Monday is not usually choir night, but the Chamber Choir is having their Christmas party tonight, kicking things off with some carolling and a sleigh ride around Candy Cane Lane.
And Fenya drove two of her friends there in the Corolla.
We got her driving lessons in the summer, which were a big boost to both her ability and her confidence. My favourite story was how she got very anxious with her parallel parking, worrying that she was blocking traffic for too long. Her instructor Larry explained, in his soft, subcontinental accent, that the faster she parked, the sooner other drivers could get past her. Somewhat mollified, she completed this banal yet challenging exercise in vehicular navigation, and was straightening her wheels to finish when a passing car honked at her a couple times.
Her face reddened when she looked up, expecting to see an angry face and perhaps an extended middle finger, but instead, a carload of teenage girls were smiling and laughing and giving her numerous thumbs up. She was grinning from ear to ear when she told us later, and we shared her surprise and delight.
Since then, I've let her drive to and from choir most Tuesday and Thursday nights, and on a few other occasions, switching cars with Audrey as Fenya is far more comfortable in the Toyota. Initially she would keep up a running commentary, reminding and reinforcing what needed to be done as we traversed the city: Okay, light is green, check for traffic, and pull away. A little faster, the limit here is...50, so I'm good there, but now the guy in front of me is slowing down, so I need to give him the two second rule... That is a fresh green light- whup, just went stale, but I don't want to slam on the brakes, no pedestrians, good, so just breeze on through...
Music and conversation would be minimal on these trips, but I made sure to praise her whenever she made a good turn, or to ask her if there was anything she would have done differently on the previous block. There were a few times where I found my right foot frantically searching on its own volition for a passenger-side brake pedal that simply refused to appear, and once or twice I could see Fenya's neck tense up after she heard me inhale sharply, but overall, I count the experience as a positive one.
Two weeks ago, Fenya went to take her road test in Morinville, on the advice of a friend from St. Albert who positively raved about the lighter traffic and the near total lack of hills. Early in the test she made an error that she thought meant an instant fail, so she relaxed considerably and aced the rest of the test, and received a pass to boot. I was proud of her, and told her so, but felt a little twinge at seeing her take another step along the road that will inexorably take away from childhood.
There haven't been too many opportunities for her to exert her newfound independence, but on Saturday she took the dreaded Anthony Henday Expressway to the opposite side of the city to attend a friend's Xmas party, but only after we made it clear that we were not available to accompany her.
Tonight she was far less concerned about shuttling her fellow choristers to Candy Cane Lane, and even listened to some Trans Siberian Orchestra on the return leg. She still researched the route extensively in Google Maps beforehand, however.
Sitting here in an empty house and knowing the garage is likewise is a bit discomfiting, but not worrying. As Fenya passes yet another milestone on the often indistinct road to true independence, adjustments will no doubt need to be made by all parties.
In fact, Audrey and I have already asked Fenya to leave her Saturday night open so she can drive the two of us to our anniversary date, and remain on call for when we are finished. She is a grand and responsible girl after all, and what's more responsible than being a designated driver for your Mum and Dad?