Christmas joy gets temporarily lost in a Federal Way parking lot | Jan's Journal

An incredibly witty license plate holder caught my eye while driving a carpool home from Bellarmine Prep: “My kids are driving me crazy. I drive them everywhere else.”

My smiling high school daughter, without due consideration, excitedly declared: “Mom, that’s your life!” She said it like I’d just won something special. Bothered for one second, I laughed along, yet felt snippy, since it was true. To compound the situation, when I finally arrived home, my adoring husband asked me jokingly, but seriously, where I’ve been all day. If he really wanted to know, I would tell him. But after 22 years together, one cantankerous gaze from me said it all.

The privilege of driving is a mind-altering obsession for newfound freedom. Against the odds, my 17-year-old finally got her driver's license on the first try. If she can pass, anyone can. Here’s a kid with a photographic memory who aces chemistry tests, and yet she is spatially challenged. It’s complicated when confronted with the catch-22 of a teen driver who is allowed to drive siblings, but not friends, for six months. It’s a good and bad thing. Letting go is a necessity for all parents, and one of those letting-go events occurs while apprehensively watching your oldest baby girl drive away solo in your car for the first time. It’s not the perplexing high cost of teen insurance that is troublesome; it’s not knowing where they are, and if they’re safe.

One day last month, we tentatively asked our daughter to drive our youngest child to her activities. It was raining buckets out, and in addition to that, the adventure occurred during rush-hour traffic. This drastically changed the route that I mapped out for her. Yes, she had me draw a detailed map of her destinations, but it didn’t help since she couldn’t read it correctly.

To make a long story short, she got lost in the Wendy’s parking lot. I know, I know. In an age of technological brilliance, the simple things are still hard. I was headed to Olympia, and she was unfortunately lost in a Federal Way parking lot with her little sister.

At first, the frantic discussion was light, and concerned. By the end of 10 minutes, I was screeching “For God’s sake, do you see the lights at the mall? Go toward The Commons mall!” Her dad scolded me for yelling, and grabbed the cell phone. I was too stunned to talk nicely anymore, and I wasn’t getting through anyway. By the end of his redundant lecture, he too was screaming “Go toward the mall!”

Eventually, the 8-year-old directed her older sister out to the main road after touring past Wal-mart and Top Foods, among other fine Federal Way establishments.

With one week before Christmas, it’s a glorious snow day — even though I fear tomorrow’s commute will be worse than today’s would have been. A household of bundled-up kids is preferable to driving anywhere. It’s out of the question for the teenager to drive today and she thankfully hasn’t communicated the desire to do so — yet.

Being home all day will allow time to decorate and put boxes away, unlike last year, when they weren’t even pulled out. Guiltily, I realized this because the boxes are dated from when I last organized them. Did anyone even make a note of absent snow globes? Or maybe I was too frazzled to observe them noticing.

Well, in any case, this year I am refusing to let all the craziness in, while trying to keep the spirit up. When you’re on the road, there’s only so much you can do anyway. The season means more than a scary mall Santa, or Christmas cards received by Christmas. This year I choose to celebrate my blessings with friends and family, regardless of where life may lead.


Federal Way resident Jan Hallahan is a writer and mom:

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