Oh what a glorious June day in 1961. Wild strawberries lay in wait for my little lard bucket, little birds were breaking their shells and timidly trying their wings for the first time. A wave of courage washed over me watching their little feathers lift in the wind and I guess I thought it was time for me to do the same thing. Why else would I even entertain the thought of getting a drivers license at this particular time? I had three children, the oldest not quite four years old and I was shaped like a root beer barrel. Indeed! I was ready to bring child #4 into the world in a matter of..well, let’s say…a week or two.
It started innocently enough a few weeks earlier when my friend, Shirley Morse, came on the Hill and offered to ride along as I toured one side of the mountain. Winnie Hanscom did her share by watching my three youngsters during these outings and we went up and down, up and down one side of the mountain, using the top of the hill for the turn-around. This remained a secret from the husband. No need for advice from him. Well, a couple years earlier, he gave me one driving lesson, resulting in his little coupe setting on top of the stone wall when he did not make it clear what gear I should leave the little gray marvel in and it took off on its own..backwards down the hill and found its own resting place. I decided remaining silent on this crusade was the thing to do.
The day came..and all I envisioned was the steep hill to the courthouse in South Paris. Tales of horror had come to me over the years and I dreaded that so much. Well, there I was, waddling toward the very lucky fellow who was going to be riding with me. I swear I saw his eyes buzz around in a circular motion when he saw the very pregnant woman who was going to “try” to get behind the wheel. Have to give him credit..he spied a penny on the floorboards and told me to save it toward a mink coat. I don’t know if he was trying to calm me or himself down.
I remember driving out of the yard and down a side street and suddenly there I was..in Market Square, the land of confusion, at the time. My passenger told me to stop and park. Was he kidding? I only park pointed in; I don’t do square parking. I put that in simple terms because that was the way I was thinking. There was no place on Rowe Hill to practice parallel parking. I stopped; put the gear in reverse, turned the wheels ( I think). No go. Second time and my belly was scraping the steering wheel. No go. Merrill Transport trucks are now lining up behind me. I can feel sweat beading on the forehead. Nice time to go in labor, I thought. I had absolutely no clue. One more time. Did everything I had read about this absolutely dumb way of parking. Ah ha!! I got the vehicle where it belonged..almost. There was a little metal “ping” and I halted immediately. My passenger told me that was enough and we would head back to “town”. I thought we were going to make a tour of Norway. Who knew! A sudden scream from the passenger side told me that I was to now attempt the dreaded steep hill. OK. Hold on! Got half way up there and stopped. Got the vehicle in the right gear and by golly, I took that car right up the hill without one tiny slip back.
The good man crawled out the car at the top of the hill and informed me I now had a drivers license. Frankly I could not believe it. He did add,”The next time you park, don’t use the sound system.” Hmm..a little sarcasm on his part, but I had the paper in hand.
Before the husband left for work that early morning, I decided it was time to let him know what was going on..well, in case, I had an accident and he came home to find me in casts and bandages. He told me if I got the license to come home, drive the 1957 Ford station wagon to Bethel, get two bags of grain and get them home.
My maiden voyage was just that. A trip to Bethel and back, two bags of grain in the rear, two medium sized tots sitting on the back seat singing and chattering, one baby secured in a car seat and one big root beer barrel behind the wheel.
Now I knew exactly how those little baby birds felt on their first flight. Freedom!!! (But I had a lot more noise on mine….)