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Monday, April 16, 2012

Adolescent Milestones: First Driver’s License

     “I’m fourteen now, Dad. Ya know what that means?” My father had, finally, stepped out of the cab of his pick-up, finding me waiting on the sidewalk by the curb. I thought he’d never get home from work on this momentous day.

     “Uh, that you are too old to get 14 swats with the broom for your birthday?” Yes! He remembered what day it was.

    “Well, yes, that, too, Dad, but, do you know what else it means?” His smile reflected the spark in his eyes but it looked like he was going to make me say it.

     “Let’s see. Hmmm, what ever could it mean to be fourteen?” Grabbing his arm, I took his lunchbox and waited for him to say more as we made our way across the lawn. Finally, he stopped, turned to look right at me and said the two most important words in my life.

     “Driver’s license?” I shrieked and jumped, pulling his arm with me.

     “Yes, Dad. I need to get my driver’s license. I could help Mom a lot if I had a driver’s license.” I enumerated all the trips Mom had to make in the daily routine of life with three girls, while holding down not only a household but a fulltime job of her own. Like Dad did not know that already, right?

     “Oh, I can see that you would be a big help with a driver’s license.” He was grinning when he said this, but it didn’t seem like he really believed it.

     “No, Dad, really; I would take care of all of those trips that interrupt her day and I could even drive her to work and pick her up, like her chauffeur, you know.” Having arrived at the side door, Dad waited for me to step into the kitchen ahead of him. I had to twist around to look up at him, but I continued my plea.

     “It’s all I want for my birthday, Dad, please?” If the pragmatic side of the issue was not making a dent, maybe I could hit on the emotional side. It was my birthday, after all. Dad would want to give me a present I would really like, wouldn’t he?

     “Whoa, the only thing you want for your birthday, eh? Guess Mom and I need to take back what is wrapped up with that pretty card under the ribbon then” He arched one eyebrow, the left corner of his mouth twitching slightly as he tried not to laugh. My shocked expression pushed his button and out came that howl. “Okay, okay,” he said, wiping away the moisture his laughter had dropped out of his eyes. “I know and look what I have right here.”

     Slowly Dad lifted the lid of his lunchbox. It was not uncommon for my father to bring his girls something home from work, such as little Hershey’s kisses or some other treat from the lunch room. I didn’t, immediately, see the connection to our present conversation. “You’ll be needing one of these, then.”

     “Oh, Dad! You knew, you knew what I wanted soooo much.” There in my hands was the little booklet printed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. At that time, it was permissible for a child of fourteen to obtain a “Learner’s Permit” by passing a written test; however, that would only allow her to drive when a licensed driver was actually in the vehicle. “I’ll study it and be ready to take the test by your next Wednesday off. Then, you can start teaching me how to drive the car.”

     “But, do you really want to begin so soon. You can’t get your regular driver’s license until you are 15, you know. Maybe you would like to wait until it is closer to your 15th birthday?” My groan was my only answer. Again, Dad laughed so I understood he was just teasing me. He knew I wanted to learn to drive now.

     Sure enough; I was ready to take the test on my father’s next Wednesday off. I passed with 100% on all of the rules and signs. Next time I came to the DMV, I would be 15 and only need to take the road test, including parallel parking. For now, though, I was ready to sit behind the wheel with Dad in the passenger seat. Teaching me to drive may have given poor Dad an early start on the heart trouble that began just a few years later. There were some harried moments!

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