Driving 101

indianThere was no need for me to drive. My brothers both had cars at one time or another or I rode with a friend. My care-free high school days did not include learning to drive nor was it suggested by anyone that I try.

It was not until I was married and living on a farm with the view in the photo above that I decided it might be a good idea to have a driver’s license tucked into my purse. I have no idea when this occurred to me; it could have been that I had just given birth to my first baby who rocked the house screaming with colic. Perhaps the word “flight” dashed in and out of my mind.

It was as though the Almighty read my mind when the husband drove home an old Thirties coupe after work one evening. I say “Thirties” because with my limited knowledge of automobiles, I noticed the color grey and the fact it had a rumble seat.  It was a $50 purchase and one to be proud of, he said.

Each day I looked out at the little coupe and knew, in my heart, it was just the right size for me and my baby. If I could drive that little grey machine up and over Rowe Hill back and forth, she would surely go to sleep. I voiced this suggestion to my now sleep-deprived spouse and surprisingly enough, he agreed to teach me to drive. I don’t care how happy your marriage may seem, let me say that this is a horrid idea. Do not even contemplate such a move.

He seated himself on the passenger side with crying baby child in his lap and I proudly slid (notice I used the word slid..) behind the wheel as if it were second nature. There was the shift stick on the floor which I assumed had to be pushed in several directions in order to proceed down the dirt road.

A long explanation of  1-2-3-4 each meaning a gear and the fact that my left foot had to coordinate with the moving of said stick gave driving a bit more difficulty in my mind…yet I persisted . Finally we left the yard with a few jumps and the spouse’s suprised yell each time the coupe left the ground. Well, let me tell you, I drove that little grey piece of machinery down to Miss Hobbs’ summer home, successfully turned around, back up the hill and the final hill to the front yard and headed that car to the garage. I was feeling mighty proud of myself.

Is this the place I leave the stick?” ( translation..is this the right gear for leaving the car?” I queried.

“That’ll do, that’ll do” was his reply. I took the baby and we trooped into the house…my steps were more of a swagger if I want to be honest.

The baby was lying peacefully in her crib and I passed the front window .  Horror filled my entire body and I said, “There goes your car.”  Talk about an understatement. The husband ran to the window and shrieked( rightfully so) “My car, my car..it’s going down the hill backwards.” Yes it was. It had stopped at this point, but there was a sticking point. It came to rest on top of a small stone wall.

The coupe was never mentioned again after the tractor pulled it up into the side yard where it remained until I think it melded into the earth. My driving was never mentioned again . To his credit, the spouse did not chastise me in any way. I think the shock of it all and losing his $50 purchase was too much for him to comprehend.

Three years passed and there were three children and another due in June. I am now 23 years old and my foot has never touched a gas pedal since the great coupe adventure.

My co-hort in crime, Winnie the neighbor, watched the babies each time a good friend with an automatic shift could sneak into the area and give me lessons. I drove to the top of the mountain, turned and came home again several times until we both deemed it possible I could get my license. I was no longer sliding behind the wheel; indeed, it was more of a huff, puff and thank God I still fit behind the wheel.

The morning of the test arrived. Over the steaming milk pail, I told my husband I was going to try for my driver’s license that day. He looked at me and said, “Good. If you get it, take the Ford station wagon to Bethel and buy a couple bags of grain.” Not one word if I had practiced or how I expected to be coming home with a legitimate way to hit the road.

Fast forward to South Paris and the poor man to ride with me. His eyes took in my very pregnant body squished behind the wheel, reached down and found a penny on the floor and told me to go buy a mink coat. I have no idea what he meant and after 54 years, I still do  not know.

I drove successfully to Market Square. The examiner, who had the eyes of an eagle, noticed a parking spot between two cars. Parallel park. That should be interesting, since I had never, never tried that on top of Rowe Hill mountain. To add to the excitement was a Merrill Transport Truck having to wait for me. This was a worse nightmare than the coupe episode. I inched, I went forward, backwards, inched, finally heard a tiny thump and knew I had nudged something. I could only pray it wasn’t a living , breathing individual. The examiner, perhaps noticing the traffic build-up behind me, told me to drive back to the courthouse. Oh yes, the stop on the hill. Then start up without rolling back. Thank you God and all for automatic shift. Did it. I could feel the beads of sweat on my neck and did not dare to look at the examiner. Back in the yard of the courthouse. The examiner looked at me, took a deep breath and said “you got it”. I said, “Really?” (Probably should just have said thank you.) He got out the car, leaned in and said “Please never park using the sound system again.” I promised and drove home feeling proud. I wonder when the examiner recovered.

True to my word, I retrieved the three babies from Winnie, loaded them in the ’57 Ford station wagon ( longer than a school bus) , drove to Bethel, purchased two bags of grain and successfully maneuvered the grain, babies and all back to Rowe Hill.

I don’t know why, but driving has never been one of my favorite things to do.

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