I sat in a plastic chair against the back wall along with a small handful of other parents. I did the crossword puzzle. The pleasant woman beside me read a book.
Of the four teenagers who had left us, mine was the first one back, and we all looked up as she came through the door.
Her smile reached her eyes, and her shoulders reached her ears.
“I think she passed,” the woman whispered.
“Oh boy!” I said, “I really didn’t think she would.”
When my daughter was 2½ she was anxiously awaiting the birth of her sibling nestled quite comfortably in my belly.
I used books to help me adjust her to the idea of this new little beast that was about to take up residence in our home. One had little drawings of sperm in a petri dish accompanied by another dish with drawings of little eggs. It quite simply said that dads have sperm and moms have eggs and when they get together they form little cells that turn into babies.
Many weeks later, as my husband was scurrying her upstairs to bed, she asked him, “Daddy, what are those raindrop things you have in your tummy?”
He was bewildered. She tried to explain. They both became frustrated, and I was summoned.
“She wants to know about raindrops in my stomach,” my husband said, standing on the third step.
“You know,” she said with 2-year-old exasperation, “those raindrop things that daddies have in their bellies.”
The light dawned for me as I recalled the pictures in the book.
“You mean sperm?” I asked rather slowly.
She slammed the palm of her hand against her forehead and shouted, “SPERM! That’s it,” and she scampered her diapered bottom up the rest of the staircase. Problem solved.
I love that story.
When she was a toddler, secure in her seat in the back of the van, we had many conversations.
One day on the way to our much-loved baby sitter’s home, we were stopped at the stop light at Hammond and Union streets and she piped up out of the blue: “Mum,” she asked, “does God have a husband?”
I love that story.
When she was in fifth grade she came home from school, did her homework, had her supper and watched TV with us until it was time go to bed. I tucked her in, and she started to sob. Really, really sob.
“I cheated,” she finally told me. “I cheated on my Weekly Reader questions today.”
After she calmed down enough to talk, she revealed that she had forgotten to answer the four Weekly Reader questions, and the next day when Mr. Bennett told the students to take them out for discussion, she panicked.
A friend next to her took pity and said it was OK to just copy hers. She did. The Weekly Reader questions were not even collected, just discussed.
She asked if I could take her to school early the next day so she could fess up to Mr. Bennett because she simply couldn’t go to sleep without the promise of a resolution.
The next morning we arrived at school early, found Mr. Bennett in the teachers room and asked to see him in private. She dutifully stood before him and confessed.
I love that story.
There has been lots of stuff in between those moments. Lots of frustration and plenty of anger — but I swear that when she walked through those glass doors at the Department of Motor Vehicles with a smile on her face and her shoulders shrugged up to her ears — it was those moments that flashed before my eyes.
But there was also one more that kept crowding its way viciously into my head.
It was of me in the gymnasium at Madison High School in 1994.
Before a crowd of 1,500 people were four caskets and one urn — the remains of Mark R. Haynie, 15; Ryan F. Linkletter, 14; James W. Sites, 17; Audra Linkletter, 17; and Tonia Post, 17.
At 7:30 on a Wednesday morning in September, all five of them were killed as they drove to school, went through a stop sign and were broadsided by a Department of Transportation truck.
No one will ever know for sure, I suppose, what caused the driver of that car to miss that stop sign, but a few years later Maine joined several other states in adopting a graduated licensing program, a law that prohibits new teen drivers from having other teenagers as passengers for the first six months that they have their license.
That law didn’t cost taxpayers anything. It didn’t violate anyone’s rights, simply limited a privilege. National statistics indicate it has saved lives.
That’s good legislation and that, too, flashed through my head as my joyful girl stood before the crowd at the local DMV with her smile to her eyes and her shoulders to her ears — and I love that story, too.