Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dredge Lake

I've done some thinking about how I concluded yesterdays post. I said that I was looking forward to the day when my kids ask for the keys to the car. Coincidentally, this morning, Jackson, my five year old son, asked me if he could drive the next time we go out. So there you have it, be careful what you wish for.

I worry about Jackson, mostly because he is just like me, which frustrates the hell out of my wife Beth. We took him on an airplane when he was a baby, and he took an interest in the man sitting across the aisle from us. The man looked at Jackson for a split second and went back to his magazine, then looked again, letting his gaze linger longer. This repeated for a couple cycles until he and Jackson were locked in a stare, like two kids trying not to blink; finally, he looked at me with a mix of amusement and bewilderment, "That is unnerving. I've never seen a baby that doesn't look away."

Jackson has always been serious and a deep thinker, is easily distracted and quick to get bored; just like my father, just like myself. Projecting forward, assuming that Jackson has been handed the baton in the family relay, I am in for a wild ride. And such would be my due.

My dad may be many things--frightening by any normal standard of parenting--but he gave me self confidence in my ability to face danger by putting his faith in me; faith in my ability to handle myself with a gun, behind the wheel of a car, riding motorcycles up sheer inclines of bored out strip-mines and narrow mountain roads. When I turned sixteen, he let me drive his Chevy Blazer which I mistook for an all terrain vehicle, with the help of my friends Mike and Danny.

Dredge Lake was an outdoor recreation area where we would go sometimes to hang out. The area approaching the beach was like a sandy mogul field, under which was a hard foundation like kiln dried clay, yielding sufficient traction for driving. You had to stay away from the beach however, an important safety tip disregarded by Mike, who had jumped a dune and stuck the nose of his car in the sand like a harpoon, for which we had brought the blazer to retrieve. I had a full load that night: Mike, Dan, and the girls Heather and Paula.

We made quick work of unsticking Mike's car, which he parked farther up from the beach and crawled back into the passenger seat, not wanting to lose any stage time with the girls.

"Let's do some four wheeling!" he suggested.

I protested. "Man, didn't you already learn your lesson Mike?"

He ignored me. "Dan," he said, "don't you think we should see what this truck is made of?"

"Damn straight," said Dan, chosen from his short list of stock expressions as he spit Copenhagen into an empty Coke can, where occasional misfires had dried onto the lid and pull tab.

He turned to Heather and Paula, cocked an eyebrow like Steve Martin, the Love God, like a Sultan addressing his harem, "Girls, tell Scott he needs to open it up."

"C'mon Scooter," they implored, "don't be so boring."

Whatever restraint I normally would have shown, ahem, was laid asunder for this attack on my masculinity. My manhood was on the line! Don't you get it?! What's wrong with you people??!!

I hit the gas and meandered a bit, careful to avoid any bumps, but pressure from my passengers goaded me into a shark-like feeding frenzy. The tail of the Blazer threw rocks and sand in Tsunami proportions, and despite my initial misgivings, I was having an outrageously good time.

We spun to a stop and faced a dune that made a perfect ramp for a jump, and I revved the engine to the red line. Everyone screamed, "Go for it!" As we flew through the air, gravity taught me an important lesson: the front of the car is much heavier than the back. We hit the ground at a 45 degree angle with a bone jarring impact. The back window fell from it's track and disappeared into the hatch, and the battery detached and fell onto the engine fan, which bit into the battery's plastic shell and burned a groove, emitting an awful grinding sound like an electric saw until I killed the ignition.

"Oh shit," I cried out, "my dad is going to kill me!"

We couldn't fix the back window, but we managed to get the battery back into it's casing, but the groove on it's side was deep and obvious.

I drove everybody home, and nobody said a word. My face was devoid of color, and everyone knew I was walking the Green Mile.

"What do you mean the window just fell!" my father screamed at me, staring into my eyes, looking for the crack in my plaster, his nose sniffing for the distinct musk of fear. I wore my mask perfectly as he railed me from all directions. He didn't believe me of course, but that microscopic seed of doubt was in his eyes, which saved me from a severe beating that he was itching to deliver.

Then he found the groove on the battery.

Ah, such fond memories. As the expression goes, we reap what we sow, and my garden was well fertilized.

But what really saved me from my father in those self absorbed teen aged years was what I am sure was a connection, a recognition on my father's part of his younger self.

Note to self: brace yourself, and always remember who you were.


jenbeauty said...

My Mother just laughs and laughs and says "just wait" and pats my daughter on the head.

One of my nicknames "Mario". Enough said.

Tee said...

Ah, peer pressure and impulsive decisions. LOL. Fond memories - and some not so fond.

You describe perfectly that tiny seed of doubt that keeps you from punishing a kid. LOL. I've already been there. I've been 99.9% sure my boy has done something, but when they deny it with a straight face it's so hard to believe they could be lying.

I am seriously fearing the teenage years. My Mom put a curse on me long ago saying, "May you have children just like you someday." ...LOL.

Good advice to remember who we were (and deep down, who we still are. LOL.)

Scott said...

Mario, er, Jen - You wild cat! It's a good thing we didn't know each other as kids. We would have been a regular Bonnie and Clyde. Uh, I think I just dated myself. Extra credit for getting my reference.

Tee - Funny how we have these instinctive survival skills. I am ambivalent about the upcoming years. On one hand I look forward to their more sophisticated hobbies and interests, on the other is the impending sense of destiny, of kharmic payback. And you are so right, we never really grow up.

jenbeauty said...

LOL Scott...you are right we would not have been a good combination. I would have been a horrible influence on you!

I have a plan for when my daughter is 16. I buy that convertible Mustang for me and she gets the Villager Mini-Van. It will have at least 250,000 miles on it by then, will cost a ton to fill it up, leaving no chance for 180s on bridges over the Atlantic Ocean.

How was that for a teaser?

Sadie Lou said...

Oh, that story was SO cool. I totally remember what it feels like to be doing something so fun and yet in the back of your mind, you are terrified of what lies ahead for you. My parents wouldn't let me go to a party and I was already at a friend's house. My friends talked me into going anyways and I did. The party was the best one I had ever been to but the whole time was that nagging sensation of wondering what my parents were thinking when I didn't come home that night.
The next morning when I called them--holy smokes--I'll never forget my dad's voice.
A yelling parent is nothing compaired to quiet disappointment and the loss of trust.
I'll have to remember that one and use it on MY kids when they have done something really irresponsible.
Quiet disappointment--it speaks volumes.

trinamick said...

LOL, jb! We share a nickname. My cousin races sprint cars, and I keep offering to fill in if he's ever short a driver.

The hardest part for us was always hiding the evidence. My mother was always suspicious, but without the smoking gun we'd sometimes get off the hook.

Scott said...

Jen - That's a good one all right; you got my attention.

Sadie - Oh, I agree, quiet disappointment is the worst of all, and I would gladly take a beating in it's stead. At least you don't feel guilty about it afterwards.

mr. schprock said...

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine was driving me home from somewhere and I goaded him into driving as fast as he could. He dropped me off, and then on his way back, still under my influence and driving way too fast, he totalled his car.

Was that my fault?

Scott said...

S - No, just like it wasn't my friends fault that I wrecked the blazer. I've goaded a friend once who was driving a Z28 with typical guy insults, and he went so fast that we caught air over a hump in the road and we nearly went lost control at around 90 on a residential road. In that case I would have shared equal credit, but we both knew how close death scraped by us and slowed it way down. He didn't speed and I didn't question him any more.

jenbeauty said...

Scott you have inspired me lately. Mine will be a two parter so stayed tuned! lol

magnetbabe said...

Good story. I reminds me when I was in high school and my best friend let her 13 year old sister drive her car. We ended up wedged in between a tree and someone's side yard fence. My friend took the fall and told their parents she had swerved to miss hitting a dog. All I could think was "Thank God I didn't do something that stupid!"

Scott said...

MB - That's hilarious. What was she thinking, huh?

:phil: said...

Great story. We all seem to have similar stories. I have two boys (11 and 5) I'll be in for it I'm sure.
Remember, "If you really believe it, it isn't a lie"
-G. Costanza

Scott said...

Phil - Good stuff, and that quote is so perfect--and true.

A. Darcy said...

If my daugher ends up anything like myself, I may have to lock her in a basement till she is at leat 30, maybe 35... just to be sure.

Braleigh said...

I've never been in any accident that has caused real damage to a vehicle, Thank God. Yeck...that felt too foreboding...I should say in the past? What can I say to feel as though I am not jinxing myself?! Scott!?!?!

From various comments, I'm piecing together your opinion on HBP. Anyone who enjoys Rowling's work is automatically 500% cooler in my eyes.

Scott said...

AD - As Obi Wan once said, "Let go! Use the Force." I know how you feel, but sooner or later...

Braleigh - That's right, I meant to comment on your blog that I finished HBP. It was great. I'm amazed at how she dangles a carrot for an entire book, each chapter a masterpiece of climactic story telling, then drops a bomb in your lap at the end that has you begging for the next book. I literally couldn't put it down. I also have some theories... Oh, just knock on wood, you'll be just fine.

Trevor Record said...

I can't say I ever got in an accident like that, but plenty of my friends did! I think everyone knows people that got in accidents like this, though.

Shesawriter said...

My mom cursed me with, "I hope you have children just like you."

I have children just like me. :-\


Master of None said...

I too am worried about my own daughter, because I am the gene carrier of the wild oats in my family.

Beth said...

My worst incident while driving, I can't even admit to my daughter. My mother was with me for it. Ugh.

My daughter is driving now (illegally) with us on our back road, but she does well. She's 12, but looks and acts about 17, at least.

Scott said...

It seems like everybody is just like me! What's this world coming to? I thought I was a freak, but I guess everyone is, and that means, geez, that nobody is...

GK - Love it that you are letting your daughter drive. My dad was cool that way too.