Photo by The Wife/Bucklesberry Gazette
By Jon Dawson/Staff Writer
Recently our beloved first-born Tax Deduction #1 obtained her drivers’ license. I’ve been in the fetal position ever since, so this will take a while to type.
It seems like just a few minutes ago The Wife and I were out in the yard teaching TD#1 how to ride a bicycle. We took turns running beside her while holding on to the bicycle seat, eventually letting go and watching her make it upwards of four feet without wobbling into another time zone.
Our dog loved to run alongside TD#1 while she pedaled, so whenever there was a crash, a mangled heap of kiddo/bicycle/canine would ensue. It was the type of display that could open a new season of Abstract Expressionism at the Guggenheim.
About 30-minutes into the bicycle lesson I was thinking it would be easier to split an atom with a butter knife, but she eventually got the hang of it. After mastering the art of riding a bike, TD#1 rode for the better part of two months and then never touched it again. When I first showed TD#1 and her younger sister how to fish they were excited to reel in those mammoth pinfish the size of sausage patties. But, after about the fifth one they were good.
“You mean after just after an hour of fishing you’ve retired?” I asked TD#1.
“It was fun but I think I’ve got it,” she said.
I obtained my learner’s permit such a long time ago the earth’s crust was still cooling from its recent formation. As the lava subsided and vegetation began to take hold, I too looked to the land of the three-point turn to gain my freedom. What defined freedom in Lenoir County when I was 16? Driving around the mall for a few minutes on Friday night and then parking on the hill in front of the A&P on the hill. After about three weeks of this, I retired.
“You don’t want to hang out in front of the A&P anymore?” a fellow hill dweller asked.
“It was fun but I think I’ve got it,” I said.
Growing up in a farming environment I’d been allowed to practice driving trucks on dirt paths in fields that were miles from civilization. To this day I remember driving a trailer of tobacco out of a field alongside a deep canal. One false move to the right and that whole load of tobacco would plummet into the canal, most likely dragging the truck down with it. I was terrified that if this happened I might survive, so I kept a packed suitcase with a passport and a pack of Nabs behind the seat of the truck.
TD#1 hasn’t really had that rich, creamy layer of terror mixed in with her training as a driver. Outside of a bug the size of a grapefruit splatting on the windshield one night and nearly causing the airbag to engage, our firstborn’s short driving history has been bereft of high-level drama. The only cause for concern was a two-month period when her aim seemed to be a little off. No matter how carefully she executed the journey, she parked in a manner that looked as if she’d just reenacted the chase scene from the movie “Bullitt”.
We let her drive home from the beach last summer, which was the best way to expose her to loads of lunatic drivers. I don’t know what it is about the thought of sharks, extreme heat, Junior Samples lookalikes in Speedos, and jellyfish that cause nincompoops to speed toward them. The beach is not going to evaporate overnight folks, so crank it back to pace car speed.
On our way home from the beach, I sat in the front passenger seat while TD#1 drove. I pretended it was normal for the little girl who used to sit in her high chair and eat peas one at a time to be piloting a 2,000-pound vehicle.
About a mile ahead I could see some goober trying to pass about eight cars on a double line heading straight towards us. In a calm, Bob Ross tone I advised TD#1 to let off of the gas to give the goob a wide berth. Sure enough, the guy ended up making it by just a few feet. There were roughly three more incidents of this nature that occurred between The Crystal Coast and the Lenoir County line. I kept my cool all the while, not letting on that I was frantically surfing eBay for a bubble-wrap suit for our soon-to-be 16-year-old.
As her birthday approached I tried to postpone her trip to obtain her driver’s license. I placed a sign that read CLOSED TILL 2049 FOR RENOVATIONS on the door of the DMV, but before I could snap a photo of it a nice lady in a blue uniform popped out of the door and offered to turn the sign into an indigestible meal. I then threw TD#1’s car keys out into the yard but our do-gooder dog brought them back. That mutt won’t bring back a stick or a ball to save her life but for some reason, the keys to a 2003 Chevy Blazer turn her into Lassie Jr.
Driving home on U.S. 70 in the afternoons would terrify Richard Petty in his heyday. The military was going to start training their troops for driving in combat conditions by having them drive on U.S. 70 during rush hour but the Pentagon deemed it too dangerous. The thought of turning one of our Tax Deductions loose among this accelerated parade of goons keeps me awake at night.
To ease my mind, we’ve made what I feel is a sensible deal with TD#1. Until she is 17, she’s allowed to drive to the mailbox and back. If that goes okay we’ll talk about letting her drive to our neighbor’s house next year.