A New Ride

By Karen Grosz

My daughter, Liz, recently bought a new pickup. It’s big, it’s sleek, it’s beautiful and it’s full of comfortable features, including my favorite thing ever, a heated steering wheel. Why heated steering wheels have not been standard since day one, I will never know. This pickup replaces a 1996 Dodge, the first of a new body style that was a big deal back then, that her dad gave her when he finally (emphasis mine as I like new things) bought a new truck. 

While I like new things, I was a bit surprised to get a call from him on the day he bought it. He’d gone out for milk and called me all atwitter and in love with a new pickup. We live in mid-town Billings; he found it in Laurel. There are several grocery stores between here and there. Several. I’ll never understand how he ended up there, but this column is not going to share details surrounding the way a man’s mind works, but it’s something like this: a man stands pondering. …  I’ve got the milk. How will I get it home?  

Liz loved that truck and cried when it was clear that the humane thing to do was put it out to pasture. But, as heated steering wheels will do, she fell head over heels for her new pickup and made all of the rules that you and I have made for our vehicles, the ones that do not even need to be stated. Everyone just knows to follow them, or else. Wipe your feet before entry. No burping. No touching the clean screen, the windows or the dash. And, as it is her ride, no one needs to disturb the dials or the settings or take it for a spin without her supervision. I, the loving mom that I am, support all of those things. New vehicles are never new for long enough.

When she picked it up from the dealer, I got to help her get her old ride home. Once there, she let me drive her new pickup around the neighborhood. I was in love, but I did not want to be the first one to scratch it, so I went the shortest distance possible and parked it carefully, barely touching the brakes, as they are precious, too. 

A few days later, she asked if I could collect her pickup from the shop where new running boards had been installed. Her husband was out of town, and her dad and I were having a day off. I jumped at the chance to help her out because that’s what moms do. We jump at the chance to help our children, whether it be with wet diapers, teen romances, or driving new rigs. We live and love to serve our offspring. 

Paul and I jumped in his Milk Truck, which is what I just now named his pickup, and headed to the shop. Liz texted, “NO FOOD IN MY TRUCK.” Now, I like snacks now and then, but I figured I could make it home without sustenance, so I replied, “What about bare bottoms, dogs, paint?” You know there is a fair amount of paint in my life, and my trusty van, named Connie because of its beige accessories and reliability, has a few splashes of errant color on the seats. Liz’s response: “NO DOGS EITHER!”

Now, that’s a bit of a low blow to our half-chocolate, half-black secretary. This labrador mix goes everywhere with my husband. E v er y w h e r e. Yesterday, I found her cuddled on his feet in the bathroom. By his side, she has sprinkled hair from here to Timbuktu, usually with a ball in her mouth and a cheery scarf (which she selects) around her neck. But, OK, it’s Liz’s pickup — no dogs. And, bare bottoms were still on the table, which made my husband act like a teenager, but only for a moment because we spied, at the exact moment, a Taco Bell. Two tacos and a lemonade later, I had the picture I needed, a fast-food bag, and he dropped me off at the shop. 

I climbed in the cab of her sleek ride, careful not to get dust on the running boards, and settled. Mirror check: My hair looked great, but maybe it was a dab of lipstick. Radio check: maybe I should set a station or two with ’70s rock on every preset. Seat check: oh yeah, I better change all those settings to my preference. Air conditioning? No. Heat. Yes. Lots of heat. Outside mirrors: facing down. Rear seats: folded. Front seats: misaligned. If it moved or had a setting, it got changed, and I was having a blast. Before leaving the parking spot, I texted that I was on my way, and after driving about halfway to her, I pulled into a parking lot and sent a pic of the Taco John’s bag.

My heart was all aflutter as I waited for the response. Her reply? “It’s a good thing I can tell that’s in the Milk Truck.” Dang it. I should have cropped a bit more. She expected it to take me 20 minutes to get to her, so at 12 minutes, I said, “Arrived.” Expecting admonishment for speeding. I thought this was my greatest coup, but she toddled to the front doors of her building and then waited for me to really arrive about eight minutes later. No lecture. Darn it. Little did she know, the stage was set for music and comfort choices beyond comparison, so I didn’t relinquish the driver’s seat until we got to my house. I nonchalantly went inside laughing about my hijinks, knowing my motherly work for the day was done.

But that’s the thing. My work will never be done. It’s our role as moms to nag our children to pick up their toys, not hang out with the wrong boys and to get good grades. Then, when they present us with life's greatest joy, grandchildren, it is our job to spoil them until they can’t be spoiled any longer and educate them about how things were back in my day before returning them home with bags of toys and tummies full of tacos. Along the way of child rearing, we get to bandage the boo-boos, suggest edits, encourage better choices, and buy more stylish outfits that are probably our taste, not theirs, because we are moms, and our work is never done.

We harass our pride and joy, our reason for living with Taco Bell pictures, so they will know that every single day, in every single way, we are happy to be part of their journey, a witness to their happiness and their pain. It is our job to inflict just enough of that pain that they are resilient but not so much that therapy bankrupts them. 

My mom, who is sitting under a tree in heaven, hopefully picking flowers while listening to the robins sing, is still at work in my life. She reminds me that aging gracefully means admitting I look like her, and that not every new friend is going to be a lifelong friend. She would tell me that sometimes God sends us people so we can have an experience or a lesson that we would want to tell our mom about because that is what moms are here for, to listen and to give advice.

She would also agree that when the sun is out and the vehicle is new, it’s our job to drive our children just a little bit crazy so they have laughs to remember and rules that were playfully broken by us so they can relax and do one thing — enjoy the ride that we call life.


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