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Family, Parenting

Give me a brake — Chapter 1 of Catherine’s adventures in driving

It was a big day for the Vaneches. Catherine got her learner’s permit.

She balked at spending time each day studying the DMV manual, even when we were in Seaside, NJ, earlier this week, but it paid off: It’s official. Four months after turning 16, she can learn how to drive.

This is how she looked after the test:

Showin’ off the permit! Those of you in lower Fairfield County may wish to look both ways before leaving the safety of your yard.

I cannot show you how she looked before the test. Suffice it to say that beneath the carefully arranged hair and meticulously applied makeup, she wore a pretty strained expression the entire ride to Cheshire.

Yes, Cheshire. Rather than gamble with long lines in Norwalk, we made an actual appointment in Cheshire. The hourlong drive aside, it was a pleasant experience. We were in and out quickly; the staff was friendly and kind, and except for the sweaty palms in the testing room and hushed tones in the parents’ waiting room, it was a piece of cake.

We celebrated at CPK back in Stamford (Catherine chose the restaurant and I could see Basil thinking, “THIS is what I’m doing on vacation?!”), the excitement marred briefly when I thought I’d stupidly left my license back in Cheshire (turned out, it was in my pants pocket).

Back home, Catherine was on the road in no time. I can only share second-hand information about the event since I was not invited to participate. In fact, with a wide-eyed expression only a 16-year-old can muster I was BEGGED to stay away.

There was nothing to do while I waited but straighten up. Too anxious to sit and read, I dusted a little, folded the clean towels, wiped down the bathrooms and squelched the urge to get in my car and hunt them down to see how she was doing.

I kept one eye on the driveway, ready to hand Basil a Sam Adams and bottle opener at a moment’s notice.

They came home an hour later, car intact; a look of excitement on Catherine’s face (“I didn’t hit anything!”); and full-on relief written on Basil’s face.

She did just fine, he said — reached a rip-roaring 12 mph in the high school parking lot, got between the lines of a parking space on the second try, and only hit the curb once. On his side of the car, Basil avoided leaving finger indentations in the dashboard and didn’t get too close and personal with the windshield. Not too shabby for the first time out.

As I’ve mentioned before, my own trip to licensure was full of potholes.

I was a slow learner, with reflexes to match. Not only did I narrowly escape hitting a tree head-on on the way to school one morning as a speeding ambulance bore down on us (my father yelling the entire time,”What are you waiting for?! Pull OVER!”), but I stripped the gears in the family sedan trying to make a U-turn in a cemetery while my mother left 4-inch-deep handprints in the dashboard. Somehow, the irony of being brought to a cemetery for lessons escaped me for many years.

Following this afternoon’s outing, Basil collapsed into a chair to nurse a beer. Catherine called my mother to give her all the details.

Something tells me Grandma is enjoying her very own pay-it-forward moment about now!

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About Terri S. Vanech

Wife, mother, communications specialist, Jazzercise instructor and recently reunited adoptee. I'm living out loud -- and trying to make it all work -- in midlife. Having a sense of humor sure helps.

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