Whenever I find myself driving through the empty Darke County Fairgrounds in autumn, I remember teaching our kids how to drive.
This is not really as crazy as it may sound. When it was time for driver’s training for our oldest son, we discovered the fairgrounds, anytime but Fair Week, was the perfect place for driver’s education.
Just about any street condition or situation can be found there, but the speed limit is only 10 mph, and there’s almost no traffic.
Of course, the oldest, being male, already knew all about driving. I parked by the coliseum, and we traded seats. He put his foot on the accelerator and took off. I yelled, “Slow down Lead foot!” and he had a new nickname, and in a very short time he earned his driver’s license.
Two years later it was his sister’s turn. She was not quite as prepared as he was. I parked by the coliseum again, and we traded seats. She cautiously put the pedal to the metal, and a few minutes later we were still slowly driving by the coliseum. Realizing she would have to speed up to reach the 10 mph speed limit, I muttered, “From Lead foot to Dead Foot,” and suggested that she should go faster.
By the time we got to the third or fourth learner, I discovered one of the roads which had several curves in it had a young tree growing right on a bend. If you didn’t turn quickly you would have a tree in your radiator. I don’t remember which kid it was, but I can still see the tree looming up before us.
As the older offspring became more accomplished drivers, they took on the practice runs with their younger siblings. My husband’s contribution to the process remained the same. The week before they took their test for their license, He took the novice driver out and helped them unlearn the bad habits they had picked up from me or the older ones.
Time flew by and all but the youngest one had a driver’s license, On her 16th birthday I asked her if she was ready to learn. She gave me the teenager’s look, and said, “Actually, I don’t need to learn. There’s always somebody here to take me wherever I want to go.”
That was the way it was for quite a while. But, her older siblings were moving on. There weren’t as many cars parked at our house any more. So one day she asked me to take her to the car dealership where her oldest brother was selling cars. I asked her why she wanted to go there. She replied, “I just got my learner’s permit today and I’d like to go look at cars.” Off we went.
Since her brother was a super salesman, he quickly put her in a more expensive model than she went to see, backed the car out, and took us out a country road for a spin. He extolled the wonders of the auto and then pulled over and said to her, “Why don’t you take it back in to town?”
“Okay!” she agreed, and they traded places before I could offer a warning from the back seat. Actually she was driving quite well on the empty road, so I didn’t say anything until we turned to head back into town when I said “I’m surprised you let her drive this new car.”
“I’m a car salesman, Mom, “It’s part of my job, he said proudly.
“Yeah, I know,” I agreed and then added, “But she just got her learner’s permit today. I think this is the first time she has ever driven a car.”
I have to give the boy a lot of credit. He didn’t yell for her to stop, and he didn’t grab the steering wheel out of her hands. He just took a very deep breath and softly suggested, “Why don’t you just pull over here, and I’ll take it back to town.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate Nov. 8, 2000.