You Can’t Drive a Parked Car

I learned to drive on the backroads of Texas with a stickshift.  At the time it was torture because every missed gear, every blinker, every whiplash start from an intersection was cheerfully narrated by my mother.  Now I cringe every time my teenage son “accidentally” walks to the driver’s side of my Ford Mustang.  Yes, it’s a stickshift.  Yes, time flies.  

Fortunately, I can still remind him that he’s not old enough to drive…yet.  But when it’s time, I’ll teach him everything I know.  And eventually, I’ll pay the extra insurance so he can drive alone. (Probably not my Mustang though!)

Before I learned to drive, I walked to and from school in the small town of Cedar Hill.  Yes, it was on a hill.  Yes, there were a lot of Cedar trees.

I passed sheep, cows and horses daily as I walked down the asphalt pathway along Little Creek Road. In fact, if you look closely at the picture of the football field in my high school yearbook, you can see the cows in the distance.  I fantasized about owning a cool car and going exciting places.  Yes, the school mascot was a Longhorn steer.   

When it was time to pick a college, I had my heart set on Southern Methodist University in Dallas,  Texas.  It was the best…it was where both my older sisters went to undergraduate school.  It was also close to home (only 30 minutes from Cedar Hill).  Why shouldn’t I go too?  Yes, I applied.  Yes, I got accepted.

Like most high school students, I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket.  I also applied to Yale University, and to Our Lady of the Lake  University (my mother’s alma mater).  No, I didn’t get accepted to Yale.  Yes, I was accepted to Our Lady of the Lake.

My mother, smart woman that she is, put me down at the kitchen table with a notebook and a pencil.  She was a single parent with four children; I was the youngest.  So she’d learned a thing or two, and she’d already put my sister through college.  She put the catalogues and acceptance letters to both Southern Methodist University and Our Lady of the Lake  University in front of me.

Yes, I had to do a budget for each school.

Here’s what was in front of me:

Our Lady of the Lake:  Academic scholarship, pell grants, a stipend
for books, full room and board paid.

Versus.

Southern Methodist
University:  Loan application for tuition, room and board.

Yes, I still wanted to go to SMU.

I crunched numbers.  I recrunched numbers.  I cried.  I pleaded. Yes, my mother listened to all of it.  I told her she didn’t love me in anymore.  She just wanted to get rid of me.  And she held firm.

My mother still likes to tell the story of my high school graduation.  I was voted “Most Talented” because I excelled in the arts – band and drama.  Everyone expected that.  But when the principal called my name, and said “Full academic scholarship”, my mother swears that a gasp went up from the crowd.  Yes, an audible gasp.  (I don’t actually remember a gasp, but this is the story my mother likes to tell.)

And when the time came, I drove my blue Chevy Monza all the way from Cedar Hill, Texas, to San Antonio.  And those four years at Our Lady of the Lake were some of the happiest, most challenging, and most creative of my life.  Now, here’s the funny part of my story.  I graduated, got a job, got married, and decided to apply to Southern Methodist University for graduate school.

Yes, I got accepted.  Yes, I got a full scholarship.  But I wouldn’t have been ready if I hadn’t taken the parking brake off, and driven to San Antonio.  Life is about moving forward, and you can’t drive a parked car.

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