I love iced tea. Straight up, no sugar, no lemon black iced tea; strong enough to make you sit up straighter. I have a favorite place to get it, not far from where I live. It’s worth it toget up off the couch and grab my keys and go through the drive through where I’ve been so often, I sometimes see a hand holding a giant cup out of the window, waiting for me to pull up.
My kids and I have this thing we do. The day they get their license and we pull into the driveway, I get out and hand them the keys. They grin at me proud. It’s their first official voyage and they know just what to do. It’s a short trip, one I can handle, and I act like I’m going in the house. But really? I turn back and watch them drive away without me. And they look forward, wearing freedom. They’re soon back with tea I didn’t have to go get myself. And they twirl the keys around their finger before they drop them in the dish by the door. There’s always a swagger to their walk that wasn’t there when they left. I take notice as they head up the stairs to their room a smile through a strange pang in my gut.
I’ve gone through this five other times so yesterday was familiar territory. The girl passed nervous, having tried twice before. She wanted me to drive home and talked all the way. She could drop me off at work this summer instead of the other way around, she said. I’d be the one waiting on the curb to be picked up at the end of the day.
We pulled into the drive way and I looked at her. “You know what this means.” She smiled and I handed her the keys as I got out and started walking to the house. That’s when it struck me. I’d never have this first again. She was my youngest. “Wait!”, I called out to her. I grabbed my phone and took a picture. She drove off looking forward, wearing her freedom. I leaned against the porch and swallowed hard. It was the last first goodbye of it’s kind.