Monday, March 14, 2011

Will Mom survive that milestone every teenager waits for - driving the car?

Man, oh man, oh man. I'm having a bit of panic attack. Okay, you can't have just a bit of a panic attack, now can you? It's either an attack, or it's not. But what if it's just ordinary worry that every mother or even father goes through when a child is learning how to drive? So, panic isn't the word. It's me realizing that my son has fully embarked upon his travels to becoming an adult. He has finally reached that milestone that every teenager waits for - driving the car.

Doesn't matter if the car is beat up and old or somewhere inbetween new and old. Of course, it would help if it's a really brand new 'fly' car, whatever teenage boys like these days, but the real issue is being able to finally get behind that wheel.

I don't know why I'm worried. I did fine. My dad wasn't worried about me. He let me loose in a pasture beside a church parking lot and said go. He didn't even get too upset when I freaked out and hit the gas pedal instead of the breaks and had the folks sitting in the baseball bleacher on the other side of the church pasture wondering if the Methodist minister's daughter was just about to wipe out the entire Baptist church's baseball team's parents. Hmm. Wonder if that was my Dad's idea in the first place? Wouldn't completely surprise me. He did love messing with the Baptist preachers in those small Texas towns. But, I digress.

My learning how to drive is what is totally freaking me out. I learned in the flatlands of Texas and where people believed in using their blinkers to let you know where they were actually going to go. Asheville drivers are not so great at using their turn signals. Perhaps that's because the public school's driver's education doesn't require that many hours behind the wheel. By the time Zach is let loose to get his learner's permit, he will only have about 10 hours of actual driving time behind the wheel. I had like two weeks total, and they taught me how to parallel park. Zach is not going to get that lesson from his school. Oh, but he will learn. That, I guarantee.

I also remember flying out to Lake Brownwood, which was at least a 30-mile round trip from my house. I'd hit 90 to 100 easy, particularly when I was given a 1976 baby blue and white Cutlass Supreme to drive. Yeah, that was one sweet drive. So, I guess I shouldn't be so suprised that I'm worried about Zach behind the wheel. I know what stupid stuff I did and that was in the flatlands in a small town with a population of about 20,000. Zach has hills, curves, mountains and 80,000+ drivers (just in the city) to have to figure out. (Although, I first started learning to drive in Ennis, an even smaller town of about 13,000, but only 30 miles south of Dallas, so my dad made me drive in Dallas also. And, if you didn't use your blinkers in the Big D to let other drivers know where you were going, you could just about kiss your ass bye-bye.)

Oh, and did I mention that we have to teach him how to drive stick shift? I love my stick shift. Once I learned how to handle a clutch and manual transmission, there has never been one thought about going back to automatic. I have so much more control over my engine and don't constantly hit my breaks. But ... I also remember learning how to drive that stick shift. On one very odd occassion, for some reason my older brother offered to let me take out his power muscle car ... I believe it was a Pontiac Road Runner. Anyway, he let me go for a spin on my own with maybe one trip around the block for a lesson. But Brownwood is one of those small towns that the saying "miles and miles of Texas" is a fitting description. And the *drag* was miles away from my house. I remember getting stuck at a red light and just could not get that damned cool car to go for nothing. Some guys from the nearby gas station had to come help me push that car to a start. As hip as that car was, I never asked to borrow it again. (I was in my 20's and living in another state before I learned how to finally master a manual transmission.)

As a teenager, I also had access to a huge ugly Chevrolet Impala my dad owned. It must have had like 20 different colors of paint on it, all in the shades of blue and grey. It looked like the car Robert Blake drove in the '70s tv series "Baretta." Named it "The Bomb." For that car, I had to carry jumper cables around with me so that when I stopped somewhere, I'd be able to get going again. I always had a gang of my best girl buds along with me; we really didn't care about the jumper cables. We were just happy to have any car and to be able to drive around and around and around, singing all of our favorite songs. We were tasting freedom. Just like any teenage girl from any generation, right?

So, maybe I've written my jitters away. I'll find some of the less traveled roads in the area, and help Zach learn how to drive my stick shift around the back and forth curves, down the slopes, up the hills and he will be fine. But will I? I guess that test comes when I start handing over the keys so the teenager with the learner's permit can continue his journey into manhood - with mom sitting watchfully at his side. While I still can.