Getting a ‘license’ for independence


My daughter Caroline is putting her driver’s permit to good use, always asking if there is any place I need to go, ever willing to drive me.
It has taken me back to that spring of my 16th birthday, when just the feel of a set of car keys in my hand felt like I had entered a magical new world.
Stephanie’s test. Awhile back, Caroline’s best friend, Stephanie, landed her driver’s license. She borrowed my little VW Beetle to take the test, since the maneuverability of this little car is so great. I met Stephanie at the testing center on her 16th birthday.
Her mom and I were given strict orders by Stephanie to stay inside the building.
“If you watch, I’ll get even more nervous than I already am.” I’m not sure how that could possibly be, as she was already broken out in hives at the realization of the enormity of what she was about to do.
Steph passed with flying colors. She thanked me for letting me use my little Bug. She then drove to the other side of town to get her picture taken for her official license, and the hives are still visible in that tiny photograph.
Stephanie just recently received a car of her own, and it is a standard. She came over to our house that first night, saying, “I only stalled it four times on my way here!”
She then went to the store, and parked way out in the middle of the parking lot, “because I’m not really good at reverse yet.” Yikes!
‘Standard’ driving. Even though I grew up on a farm, it took my father-in-law to teach me how to drive a standard. He took me back the lane of a farm field in his pick-up truck and said, “OK, now just take your time.”
I stuttered and stalled and gave us both plenty of jerky whiplash episodes, but he just remained patient and quiet. That was exactly what I needed. He wouldn’t let me quit until I had mastered going through the gears, including backing into a pretend parking space.
Car decor. We all laugh, but we remember the good old days when all of this was a strange new world for us. And things have come a long way in the automotive world, if you think about it.
Remember fender skirts? What a strange thing to dress up a car … it sort of makes you think of a girl in a dress. There were other odd things like “curb feelers” and “steering knobs” on those big old steering wheels of days gone by.
My maternal grandfather always drove a Chrysler, and the car I remember best was aqua and cream and had tail fins that reminded me of a huge insect about to take flight. He was so proud of his fancy car that we didn’t dare chuckle at how odd it looked to us.
Who am I to talk, driving around in an incredibly bright yellow Bug?
Got an OH NO? Caroline’s cousin offered to ride around with her, after looking inside the Bug for a minute. I said, “What were you looking for before you agreed to be her training coach?”
“An ‘OH NO’ handle,” Bub answered, dead-pan. “You’ve got one … it’s gonna be fine.”
“What is an ‘OH NO’ handle?” I asked.
Bub pretended to be a scared-to-death passenger on a tilting roller coaster and grabbed for an imaginary handle to brace himself, shouting “OHHHHHH NO!” in a panic-filled voice.
So I learned something new … my Bug came more fully equipped than I ever realized!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.