What kind of car did you make memories in as a kid?
There was a truck. A 1970s “ish” brown truck. A brown truck with a stripe down the side, a bench seat in the cab and a topper on the back. A sturdy truck that we took to Wisconsin to get our Christmas tree from my Uncle’s farm. A truck that I laid down in, under the topper, dressed as the tin man as my parents drove me to a friend’s Halloween party. More than anything else, a truck that my dad spent hours driving down country roads, looking at fields, identifying weeds and visiting with farmers. A truck with lots of memories and miles.
As a child, I remember thinking that my dad found some sort of inner peace during “the drive.” Maybe it was the view from the windshield, the smell and feel of the open windowed outdoor air and the solace of the country roads. Whatever it was — it made me believe that there was no better way to spend your day. With this picture in mind, you can understand the anticipatory excitement I felt when it became “my time” to drive.
Hot off the printer of the local DMV, I finally had my paper driver’s permit in hand. I had a skip in my step and a smile on my face as I prepared for my big “first drive”. My dad and I got into “the truck.” Keys in the ignition and seatbelt on, I drove (very slowly) down our gravel driveway, with dad by my side. Life was good… until… the driveway ended and the highway appeared. There were cars coming from the east. There were cars coming from the west. There were cars going fast. And I was supposed to join them. A slight difference from the quiet gravel driveway I had just ventured down.
Tears began to flow as fear settled in. We had not talked about this part and I was not prepared for this step. I felt like my emotions resembled a thermometer moving from hot to cold without warning. Unlike me, my dad remained calm. He was my “thermostat,” set at a cool 68 degrees without falter. He assured me that it would be OK, that he would guide me through the next steps and that I would, indeed, make it out onto that highway.
Several minutes went by, if felt like hours, as my dad waited for me to gather up the courage to pull onto that highway. He reminded me, often, that he had all the time in the world but that I was going to be pulling out onto that highway, today. I wiped away my tears. I placed my white knuckled and shaky hands at 10 and 2 and slowly accelerated turning into the southbound lane of Highway 14. It felt amazing, terrifying and embarrassing, all at the same time. All of this would not be possible without my “emotional thermostat” by my side.
Humans are curious by nature. Always trying to fill in the blanks of what is happening around us. What’s going on with her, why did he act like that, why is she crying in a truck at the end of her driveway — we have all asked those questions. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to resist that urge to “know” and to “solve” but rather just be present, calm and supportive like an emotional thermostat. You see, my dad did not need to know “my story” at the end of our driveway. He did not need to know why I was afraid, what my tears meant or how long it would last. He simply needed to be my thermostat, granting patience and grace, as he allowed me to experience this moment in my life, the emotional hots and colds.
Who needs you to be their thermostat today?
Who can be yours?