Danger is not my middle name. Mine rings of safety– ”Lee,” the one whose feet tread nice and slow through grassy meadows. I am the cautious firstborn who once trembled at the thought of removing the Huffy training wheels, who accidentally did the splits the first (and last) time I put on roller blades, who waited to get a driver’s license until age 17, who turns my knuckles white holding onto the assist handle when I’m riding in the passenger seat of the car.
Last weekend on a trip to Phoenix, when my baby brother and I were set to go fetch some late night dinner for the family, I pictured us getting in the car, clicking our seat belts and closing ourselves in behind thick steel doors. Instead, he handed me a helmet and backed the Vespa out of the garage. The scooter? On real roads? With no seatbelt? He patted the seat. I gulped down a breath.
I thought of the story of Eleanor Roosevelt on my shelf back home, the once timid First Lady who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I remembered the black and white sketches of her sneaking away from the safety of the Secret Service and putting on her driving gloves…and then flying co-pilot under cover of night with her friend Amelia.
You’ve got to live a little. I exhaled, then saddled up and circled my arms around my little brother, trying not to squeeze too hard. We were off. Strands of hair rushed behind me, flapping like a little European scarf. The super moon was rising high, spotlighting our path. I couldn’t keep the corners of my mouth from rising with it.
We grazed the perimeter of farm-land, felt the pockets of cool air where well-watered crops breathed the heat of day away. We leaned around corners and righted ourselves. Cars zoomed past. Our tires jolted over a bump and I cheered that I was still on board.
By the end of my 30-minute vacation from my safe, comfy, no-risk life, I almost felt I could drive the thing myself. We had gone to the restaurant and back…and I lived. I took off the helmet and pulled my fingers through tangled hair.
Inside the door of the house, I watched as my baby brother’s baby was passed from person to person. In full newborn trust, he went with the flow, not flinching at the movement. And I’m guessing that trend will continue for little Charles Danger Cross. With his risk-taker dad and his adventuresome moniker along for the ride, he may well opt out of the usual firstborn sense of caution. Still, I can’t help but cuddle him careful…even if Danger is his middle name.