I can’t recall exactly how it came about, but I know that my friend and I were sixteen and the two boys, who were cousins and best friends, were seventeen or eighteen. We all went to school together, although I only knew who they were because I was friendly with their younger sisters. My friend knew them better.
It was the middle of the day on a weekend. We were in my friend’s driveway in suburbia, 1981. The driveway was long. The boys had driven in. Whether they’d been invited or had dropped by on a whim, I can’t say for sure.
Both of them were cute, one shyer than the other but neither of them nerdy. Bad boys among the more upstanding types I knew well, but not exactly troublemakers. Between my friend and I, I was the shy one, but I wasn’t so shy that I didn’t smile and make a few comments in the conversation. I wasn’t going to go unnoticed.
At some point, my friend and I were sitting on the hood of their car. One of the boys suggested that they drive us around the block like that. We weren’t so sure that was a good idea, but being foolish and young, we agreed. There were no drugs or alcohol in any of our systems, so that wasn’t a concern. The neighborhood was set off from traffic, so the likelihood of coming across other vehicles was limited and the boys couldn’t have gotten away with driving fast, not with all the busybody neighbors on teen watch.
Ten miles per hour feels fast when you are on the hood of somebody’s car, especially when it’s the hood of a car being driven by two boys you don’t quite trust and who clearly have an interest in impressing you with their daring. My friend motioned for them to slow down. They ignored her, sped up. We probably were going fifteen miles an hour, maybe twenty. I remember liking it but worrying about my friend. She seemed stressed, afraid, and since she generally was more of a risk-taker than I was, this made me uncomfortable. But the wind. The freedom. The cute boys taking us for a ride.
The vision of a girl flying through the air . . .
I banged on the hood. The boys stopped the car then backed up to where she had landed. My friend had not fallen off the car; she’d jumped. The fear had gotten to be too much. She found her escape. Not too smart a move, but we clearly weren’t at our smartest that afternoon.
When she finally got up, she delicately held her arm as if in a sling. Her teeth were clenched. Tears were in her eyes. The boys drove us back to her house. We sent them away. As we walked toward the door, we concocted a story that we thought would be palatable to her parents. Something about riding bikes and hitting a curb and flying off the bike and falling onto her shoulder.
I don’t recall much more of what happened that day, but she told her parents the story, I went home, and they went to the hospital where she was treated for a broken collarbone. The next day she called to tell me about the collarbone and that her parents knew the real story. They saw through her lie and she was in too much pain to deny the truth.
We were good kids. I was a particularly responsible teenager. As teenagers go. But I did a lot of stupid stuff. More than I like to recall now that I have teenagers of my own. If I were good at denial, then I’d assume my daughters never do anything stupid, never do anything that could get them hurt or in trouble with me or the law.
Damn. I wish I were good at denial. But alas, I am not.
It’s tough being a parent. Even when your kids are well-behaved and pleasant. As mine are. Even when your kids are hardworking and successful in their endeavors. As mine are. It’s tough because I was all of those things and still, I did a whole lot of stuff I still wouldn’t admit to my parents (well, I may have admitted it just now.)
We try to teach them to learn from our mistakes, but how many parents tell their kids about the really stupid things they did in their youth, about the near misses or the broken collarbones that resulted from our foolishness? I’m pretty honest with my kids, but there are situations, incidents that if shared, are not going to help my cause, the cause being keeping my kids safe so they can live long and happy lives.
I suppose that goes both ways. While I am pretty open-minded and truly want my kids to share their lives with me, there probably are situations, incidents that if shared are not going to help their cause, their cause being able to do what they want to do without parental interference.
I can only hope that they are smart enough to stay on the car instead of jumping, if they are stupid enough to take the ride. I can only hope that they choose to tell me the truth so I can help them if they do get in trouble and need an adult on their side, guiding them. I can only hope that they aren’t stupid enough to accept a subsequent invitation from one of the guys driving the car and go out with him the next week.
Lord knows that was another foolish decision. But times were simpler then. The date was a bust but I still remained friends with his sister, who never knew we went out, and I could pass him in the hall at school and avert my gaze. Which I did. Because I was a little bit shy and too much of a good girl to be cavorting with boys like him.
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