New Year's Day Trip

Last fall, when our daughter, Valerie, went away to college in Southern California, she decided not to take her car with her. She said she didn’t want the responsibility that went along with having a car at the same time she was getting adjusted to living away from home.

If I were talking to anyone else who was moving to Southern California, my thoughts would have been, “Are you crazy moving to Southern California and not having a car? Public transportation in Los Angeles is probably just an urban myth. And even if it does exist, who rides it? It is probably mostly empty buses with just the occasional creeper lurking in the back.”

But when it came to my own daughter, the thought of her having a car in LA scared me. In the year and a half since she had gotten her license, her driving experience was pretty much limited to a five mile radius in Petaluma between home, work and school. I imagined her trying to navigate her way among a sea of cars on the Golden State freeway where no one goes below 75 mph or it’s totally congested stop-and-go traffic and any driver who is the least bit indecisive gets a raised middle finger. In short, I was sure she would get eaten alive on the LA freeways.

But those were my thoughts, not hers. Because when it came time to discuss how she was getting back to school in Orange County after Christmas break, she said that she had been thinking about it, and she wanted to have a car for the rest of the school year.

For the first semester, she had done her best to get around on public transportation or to hitch a ride with friends. I was very proud that she gone to Target on the bus a couple of times and she had even made a four-hour trip on trains and buses to UCLA to visit her friend. But she said it took forever to get anywhere on the bus and she really wants to get a part-time job off campus which will be nearly impossible to do if she doesn’t have a car.

Gulp. My little girl on the big, bad, LA freeways. But before I could say anything, Steve said to her, “That’s a great idea. I think you will enjoy school a lot more if you don’t feel like you’re trapped on campus.”

It’s times like this that I am especially grateful that I am not raising my children alone; if it were solely up to me, I would have let my fears and overprotective nature undermine Valerie’s desire to take another step of independence.

So the plan was made that she would make the seven hour drive to Chapman in Orange County early on New Years Day – hopefully traffic would be fairly light at least for the beginning of the drive – and Steve would ride shotgun to navigate. And once they got to Orange County, Valerie would drop Steve off at John Wayne Airport so he could fly back the same day. Of course, she would have detailed directions about how to get from the airport back to campus.

Steve and Valerie made the trip safely with Valerie doing almost all of the driving. When we talked with her on Skype after I picked Steve up from the airport, she looked totally exhausted from the drive – and we were all a little teary over saying goodbye to her after a really nice Christmas break – but the important part was that she had made the drive and now had her car with her so she can start the semester with a new sense of freedom.

And as for me…I’ll be praying for a bubble of protection around Valerie and her 2001 Volvo.