Friday, June 24, 2011

learning to drive (lyn)

I got my license on the day I turned 16.

The driving school I went to was in downtown Brockton, and all I remember was watching a gruesome film that showed mangled young bodies to warn against reckless driving.  As far as the driving lessons themselves, those I remember well.

My father has always been passionate about cars.  He was the person everyone consulted when buying a new one.  He could quote arcane facts about every conceivable model.  He was a true car connoisseur, and because of that, he was the obvious choice to teach me, his oldest daughter, how to drive.

My mother was too nervous to go with me, and would actually let me drive around the neighborhood (illegally) to practice by myself.  My mother still doesn’t like to be in a car when anyone else is driving.  She trusts her own instincts better than others.

My driving lessons with my father would all begin and end the same way.  We would leave the house with optimism and return with me in tears.  My mother never had to ask, “How’d it go?” as my father would always greet her with, “Next time you’re taking her!”  But of course that never happened.  To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever been the one driving when my mom is in the car.

My dad and I have always had a tempestuous relationship. It is amazing that we survived both my driving lessons and my long hair (“Get those bangs out of your eyes; you have such a beautiful face, it’s a shame no one can see it.”).  In the past three years, my dad has mellowed, almost to the point of inertia.  I miss the spark of his that was so easy to ignite.

Alexander hasn’t had a good reason to get a driver’s license.  He can take cabs or public transportation everywhere, and I don’t even own a car.   But I don’t want my son to be one of those people who learns to drive at 40.  So two weeks ago I signed Alexander up for driving lessons. 

Bobby, Alexander’s driving instructor, arrives on Saturday for my son’s first, 45-minute lesson.  Alexander greets him and sees that the driver’s seat is vacant.  He gets behind the wheel of the car, and after a ten-minute how-to-drive synopsis, is pulling onto East 79th Street, a major two-way street in Manhattan.  Alexander’s experience to date?  Driving a golf cart on the Cape.

Lesson number two is today.  It’s raining lightly and the air is misty.  Bobby arrives on time, and Alexander knows to get in on the driver’s side.  I watch as the car jerks its way into the line of traffic on 79tth Street.

I go back inside and make myself a big cup of coffee.  Thinking of my son driving gives me a whole new list of worries.

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