While reading Lally Brown’s Don’t Drop the Dolphin: An Expat in the Turks & Caicos Islands, she mentioned a time when she was teaching her teen daughter how to drive a car. A flurry of memories rushed back as I recalled that harrowing time in my teen life.
When I was about 15, I followed protocol and took the driver’s education class with Chicago Public Schools. I even traveled to another infamous high school to take the road course in a mobile unit and left that venture with my learner’s permit. But I still needed my actual driver’s license and that is when the real tests begin.
Back then, people commonly practiced driving in a big vacant lot on 47th Street close to Lake Shore Drive. By that time, my father’s patience had obviously waned and as his fourth child, I was met his tantrums and meltdowns. He was frayed and impatient and at one point he even vowed that I was trying to kill him. We both returned home in shambles and with me in tears when my mother quietly vowed, “I will teach her.”
Thus, we would go out in the early mornings before she went to work. We used St. Lawrence Street for practice driving because it is not a busy thoroughfare, and it is or was a one-way street. I calmly progressed and her patience added to my confidence as I learned how to be a safe driver.
Then, the day arrived when I was ready to take my permanent driver’s license road test so Daddy and I went to the DMV out on King Drive (then, South Park). Yes, he took me. The agent was mean and very nasty, and he said that I failed my three-point turn. I returned to Daddy in tears with my failed test proof in hand. He was quiet and said, “You’re going back tomorrow.” I was shocked. And sure enough, we returned the next day. The gods spared me from getting the same agitated man and yep, I passed!
It takes the patience of Job for parents to step in to make sure that their children are legal citizens, armed with all that they need to adequately function in society. They both gave what they had to give and since those early days, I have driven countless hours alone and from state to state. Sometimes, all I had was enough gasoline and money to get to my destination. I often had good music and I had miles and miles to clear my mind and do as the Brits say, “Sort things out.” Thanks to my ever-loving parents for not giving up on me as I learned to maneuver the road!
December 3, 2022