Last weekend I was in Port Angeles, spending time with my mom and aunt and helping them with a clothing sale. They had advertised it locally and for two days people came and went, not a lot, but a steady trickle of women who sifted through lovely barely-worn purses and blouses and shoes and jewelry and enriched their lives a tiny bit while offloading a bit from my mom and aunt.

It was a fairly interesting and rewarding experience, really, seeing things go on to live new lives with new people. Many of the shoppers were chatty and so we would learn one lady was happy to find an elastic waistband because she had a sensitive area on her back from a surgery scar, or another person who needed sturdy shoes and so was delighted by the trove of stylish Easy Spirits and Clarks.

One woman showed up with her boyfriend/husband, who skulked in the driveway and made comment after comment after comment about the female frippery at hand, while ever so slowly the rest of us sort of … separated this lady? Like buffalo forming a protective semi-circle against prey? Pretty soon she tried on a jacket that he began blustering on about, saying it looked ridiculous on her, and we started actively shooing him away and telling her that not only did she look fucking fantastic and fierce in that jacket — which she did! — one of us would be happy to give her a ride home if the Mister was in such an all-fired hurry.

Eventually, she left wearing the jacket, plus a pair of glamorous oversized sunglasses. “We’re going to dinner with friends tonight,” she called as she left. “This will be perfect!” We all waved, benign smiles, a few extra teeth in his direction.

Riley, who turned sixteen (!!) recently, is learning to drive. He’s less geared towards getting his license than I was at his age, while I couldn’t wait to take the test and can still remember the whole-bodied sorrow of failing it on the first try (damn you Corvallis DMV and your intentionally confounding one-way loop of a parking lot which resulted in an auto-fail when I went in the wrong way at the end), Riley hasn’t been in a huge hurry.

He has his learner’s permit, though, and he does want to get his license soon, so we’ve been going on driving outings together.

By “we” I specifically mean Riley and me, because my car is easier to drive than John’s big-ass truck, plus — I truly believe this is more of a Public Knowledge thing and less of a Questionable Internet Overshare — John is kind of an obnoxious backseat driver. (“What? I just don’t like not having control, is that so weird??”)

We started out in a parking lot, then graduated to driving the neighborhood loop before slowly expanding out into different areas. Riley is a super nervous driver and I feel a lot of internal pressure to be, like, so many things for him during these outings. Calming, reassuring, corrective (but not over corrective!), while seamlessly switching back and forth between light-hearted patter and clear directional instruction (including using the word “correct” because “right!” gets SUPER FUCKING CONFUSING).

There was a bad moment at the end of a drive the other day, where Riley was turning left at an intersection and failed to yield to the oncoming traffic. Just a newbie mistake, but it was briefly quite frightening — incoming T-bone to the passenger side! — and I did not keep my chill. I was scared, then angry, he was scared and defensive, it was … not great, in terms of bolstering his confidence.

The two of us were coming home from a drive yesterday, our first since the near accident, and I could tell he was planning to avoid the intersection. Let’s go through that light, I said, and he was like nope. No way no how noperino that’s a hard no it’s a no from me dawg and for the following reasons I am out, etc.

So I pushed back, and he pushed back, and pretty soon it wasn’t really a two-people-arguing-about-a-thing thing, it was a parent-laying-down-the-law thing, and I am here to tell you that I felt TERRIBLE. I felt like I felt when he was a baby and I would hold him down so the pediatrician could push a needle into his shocked little arm.

I forced him to drive to that light and navigate his way through it and I cannot describe how much I did not want to do that, but I did, and I knew it was the right thing as soon as he successfully made the turn and actual glittering sparkles of relief and fuck yessss came flying off of him and for the rest of the whole day it’s like his feet were barely touching the ground.

What he probably didn’t realize is that I was the same way. Floating along in a sea of whew, because he’s not the only one learning as he goes.