I woke her up at 7 AM which was the usual time. At 7:35, I walked to the bottom of the staircase to give instructions for the afternoon before I left the house.
“Stephanie, please pick Michelle up from school at 5:15. I’ll be home at 6.”
I heard a scramble. She had to be at school by 8 and her feet had not yet hit the ground. She grumbled that she would indeed pick up her sister as instructed.
As I got in my car, I received a text message.
Dad, I don’t know how to get to the parking lot at school.
This was her first day driving alone to school. This was the first time she had to find her parking space.
I texted back, Didn’t you ride with DJ to school your entire freshman year? Didn’t you park in that lot for 180 consecutive school days???
The three questions marks that followed my words would come back to haunt me. They clearly sent the message that I thought she was directionally deficient. Which she is. But I didn’t need to remind her at 7:38 AM when she was clearly having a worse than average morning.
She called. “You are so mean to me!”
“I’m sorry. I just thought after being at St. Mary’s School for girls for three years, you would know how to get to the parking lot.”
The for girls was unnecessary. It was like my dad calling me by my first, middle and last name when I was in trouble as a child. I could have just as easily said school or St. Mary’s. The for girls was my way of sharing my exasperation that she wasn’t attentive enough to be able to master this seemingly simple task on her own. Perhaps it was even a dig at women in general, my connotation being that all were directionally inferior to men.
Although I know that not to be true, my youngest daughter perhaps has better directional intuition than I, I did spend the first 18 years of my life with a woman who could hardly find her way out of our driveway.
At one point my mother was driving by herself down I-95 to her parents’ house in Florence, SC, 85 miles due south of Fayetteville, NC, where we had lived for ten years at the time. She had made the trek with my father monthly for that decade; a minimum of 120 trips. Likely many more.
In Lumberton, she got off of I-95 south to go to the restroom. She then got back on I-95 north to complete her trip south. Forty-five minutes later she was shocked to see road signs welcoming her to the City of Dogwoods. Yes, she was back in Fayetteville.
There was also the time she drove back from Florence and missed Fayetteville altogether realizing her mistake around Benson, a good 45 minutes north.
I told Stephanie to call me once she got to Hillsborough Street. That I would try to talk her to the back entrance of the school. It was a difficult conversation.
“Stephanie, the school is on a square block. You simply have to follow the streets around it to get to the back.”
She needed more.
“I’m on Hawthorne Street. How do I get there from here?”
“I don’t know. I am unfamiliar with Hawthorne Street. What do you see around you?”
“That is unhelpful. Do you see any other streets?”
“There is one here called… Beneful or something like that…”
“Beneful? That’s the powder I put in my juice to stay regular. Just drive toward the school! You’re bound to find it.”
And she did, making it to class on time.
I need to watch my words and my tone. But dag gone, sometimes I just can’t think like they do.