One of the big milestones in life is learning to drive and getting your driver’s license. Here’s my learner’s permit from way back when…

Scan 114

I was one of the youngest in my class, so I had to wait and wait. I took Driver’s Ed in the summer before my junior year when everyone else was already getting their license. The only restriction was that you had to drive with a licensed driver, but it could be a friend. By the time I got my license in December of that year, I felt more than overdue. I passed the test with just one missed question for a 95 & a few points off for a wide right turn for a 93 (why do I remember that?). That was good, but it was the experience that taught me. My mother or father gave me one of their cars & I took off with a flash. Stupid kid – piled everyone in the car & drove everywhere we could. My parents were awfully patient…and it was just beginning.

I had three wrecks, fender benders, in the next few weeks. Two of them were in the school parking lot & not really my fault, but my father had to get his car fixed each time. Then someone hit me in an unmarked intersection, something that I would have avoided with a little more experience. My parents were more than nice about it. They said I couldn’t drive for awhile, not because they didn’t trust me, but because they couldn’t afford it. I’ve never forgotten their patience with their first driver.

Not many of us had cars in high school. Mostly some of the guys had old cars, but not that flashy. There were a few really cool cars that were the envy of everyone, but it wasn’t something you automatically got when you turned 16. Most of us had to go through the routine of asking to borrow the car and then coming up with a reason. I’m sure that I always did what I said I was going to do…I just added a few stops and other places and people while I was out. A trip to the grocery store involved picking up a friend, stopping for a coke, dropping her or him off, and getting home with the groceries. Over an hour for a 10 minute errand, at least.

I was almost embarrassed when my parents gave me a new car for my 20th birthday. It seemed like too much. That shiny silver 1966 Impala with white leather seats, two door, automatic on the floor, probably cost $2,000 new, a fortune to me. I quickly got over the guilt & had a lot of fun driving it while I was in college and early marriage.


Since that time, I’ve driven thousands and thousands of miles. I must have driven a hundred carpools over the years, having four kids and all. The flashy Impala got impractical with the two doors and I moved to sedans, then a station wagon and then an SUV, a cute Blazer. I drove when there were no seat belts, and nothing but a radio. We had air conditioning, which we didn’t have when I was little, and my second or third baby had the first real safe car seats. Thank goodness the older ones survived! I’ve been hit from behind a few times, but no bad wrecks. I’m not afraid to drive long distances by myself and spent a lot of time driving kids to college and back.

I started using my seatbelt when my kids were learning to drive, wanting them to be safer than I was. I’ve gotten smarter and safer through the years, slowing from my earlier years of pedal to the metal teen, rushing mom driving every which way to pick up kids, to the grandmother I am today. Not an old lady driver, but wiser than before.

It was a shock the first time I put a grandchild in the car with me. First, there was the ordeal of the ultra-safe car seats we have today. Mostly, it was the jolt of responsibility I felt, the realization that I had been entrusted with my child’s and my most precious treasure. I don’t remember feeling that with my own babies, but I was a 21 year old mother. I really did drive like I had a car full of eggs that first time with a grand baby. After eight, I’m past that, but still always aware of who my passengers are…

The reason I wrote this today is that two of my grandsons recently got their licenses and one is starting driver’s ed. By the end of the year, I should have three driving grandchildren. Whoa! Last week, I took one of them to dinner and he picked me up in his new, new to him, car. He’d only really been driving on his own for about a week and we were just going about half a mile away. I’d driven with his cousin, watching him try to get his pace, slowing down or driving too fast. This one was nicely cautious and nervous about turning into small parking lots, finding a parking place. The inexperience was endearing.

But, I couldn’t help but put myself in his place and wonder if we hadn’t traded places. I wonder if they are as scared to drive their grandmother as I was to drive them as babies. I wonder if they feel responsible for my safety. I amused myself with these thoughts, smiling to myself. They are all great kids. I trust them ever so much, even remembering my own inexperience and the tendency of youth to feel invincible. They can’t drive with more than one person in the car unless it’s family, for six months, so they won’t be tearing around with a car full of friends like we did. For now, they are happy to just be driving Miss Mimi…Oh My!