Mariah drove herself to school today, as she now does every now and then when she has to stay late. We prefer her to take the bus, for both environmental and economic reasons. But since school is 20 miles away, we're also glad that she can now drive herself on occasion and save us the trip when she has to stay after school for an event.
This morning, though, was her first morning back after two sick days. And she called only forty-five minutes into the school day to say she really wasn't feeling well and she'd be heading home again. After assurances that she was well enough to drive, I agreed that she could and we both hung up.
About twenty minutes later she called again, in tears. She was in a gas station not five miles away from school. The car takes diesel and this station doesn't have it, so she'd pulled in to a parking space to ask the attendant where she could get it. Only--and this took some piecing together--she'd apparently run right up onto the concrete barrier marking the end of the parking space, and in pulling back off it had pulled off some of the lower part of the bumper as well. As I say, this took some piecing together through the tears, brought on as much by her illness as the damage to the car.
After we figured out that she could probably still drive the car, and that she didn't need me to come down and rescue her, we hung up. When she got home she showed me the damage--minimal--and explained how she'd pulled the plastic housing back into place. It will need repair, true, but she'd managed to get the car back in driving shape, find and buy diesel, and drive home.
In the end it turns out to be a story of how she doesn't really need me, how she could manage on her own. I was glad to be at the other end of the phone when she called, but all I did was reassure her. I'm at the far end of the process Caroline has been documenting this fall--again and again I realize it's Mariah's turn now, that she has to take responsibility for herself, and that she can.