Driving with Abbey

Dear Abbey,

“How Do You Like Me Now?”

The author and daughter, driving.

You know, that Toby Keith tune really has nothing to do with anything. But that song means everything to me. It represents 17 years of some really great times that you and I have spent together in the car. More on that later, but let’s start at the beginning …

I remember the first ride with you, leaving North Kansas City Hospital with you and Mom in the back seat. And I remember being in the left lane, and needing to be in the right lane, and not changing lanes for a mile because I didn’t want to risk it. (In my previous 30 years on this Earth, I would have made that lane change without hesitation. But not this time.) We missed the turn we needed to make, and had to turn around in a parking lot. But you were safe. And that was important to me.

I remember sitting at a stoplight not far from our first home in Independence. Listening (and singing out loud) to Wee Sing Silly Songs. And for no reason whatsoever you said, “You know what, Dad? I love you.” It touched me. I wrote a letter to you about it, to give to you when you were older. Which I will give to you. When I find it again. I will find it.

I remember driving you around to get you to fall asleep. At all hours of the day. And night. And morning. And afternoon. And evening. I could get you to sleep no other way. It made me happy when you fell asleep.

I remember driving you to weeknight Mizzou basketball games in Columbia. You’d let me watch the game while you watched some of it, but mostly you’d watch and mimic the Golden Girls and cheerleaders, then go down after the game to get your picture taken with them. Then we’d put on your jammies and drive home late at night. I loved it.

I remember driving to Father/Daughter dance practices at Steppin’ Out, worried that I would embarrass you (and myself) with my (lack of) dancing ability. But you didn’t care about how poorly I danced. You just cared that you got to perform with your Dad. That meant a lot to me.

I remember driving you to middle school every morning, listening to National Public Radio, talking about the events of the day. I liked that.

I remember checking you out of that middle school to drive you to an interview. You had entered an essay into a contest for a $1000 scholarship as part of The Federal Reserve’s Money Smart Week. At the conclusion of the interview, one of the judges asked you how you knew so much about current events and financial issues. You turned to me and said, “My Dad and I talk and listen to NPR every morning in the car on the way to school.” I was very proud.

I remember driving you to a fancy breakfast at the Federal Reserve Bank downtown, where you picked up an over-sized $1000 scholarship check from Dr. Thomas Hoenig, then the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and now a director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in Washington, D.C. Those in attendance included school district officials, and mayors, and congressmen, and other dignitaries. I told Dr. Hoenig that I had read his recent essay, titled “Too Big Has Failed,” about the then-ongoing financial crisis. He said he was going to read your essay on his flight to Washington later that day. I was a proud Dad.

I remember driving to soccer practices in Blue Springs, and Lee’s Summit and Overland Park. I remember driving to local soccer matches, and to matches in Topeka and St. Louis and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and Little Rock and Tulsa. And often those drives, as we neared the soccer field, ended with a blaring rendition of that Toby Keith song, “How Do You Like Me Now.” I have no idea why that was the song. But it was. And I’m glad for that song.

I remember you driving me during preparation for your driving test. We practiced parallel parking, and turns and stops, and driving the actual course. You passed. And Mom and I gave you my favorite car ever. That 200,000+ mile car had a lot of memories of a father and daughter driving around, talking about stuff, going to places, listening to NPR and Toby Keith. I love that car. And I love you. And I love you and that car.

And I remember driving you yesterday, in that 200,000+ mile car, to your ACT test. So you could relax, and eat your breakfast, and put on your makeup, and Instagram your friends. Driving you home from that test, listening to NPR (for a little while anyway), brought back a lot of memories from the past 17 years. Thanks for the drive down memory lane.

How do you like me now, you ask? I like you a lot. I love you. I’m proud of you, and all that you’ve accomplished. I’m excited for your future. And for wherever our drives take us down the road.

Happy 17th Birthday!