6: The Driving Lesson

6: The Driving Lesson

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

The Driving Lesson

A well-balanced person is one who finds both sides of an issue laughable.

~Herbert Procknow

At sixteen, I possessed something every teenager dreams of . . . a learner’s permit. But unlike most kids my age, I was terrified by the thought of navigating almost two tons of crushing steel.

“Do you want to drive home?” Mom asked when she picked me up from my after-school house-cleaning job.

I hesitated. “Really? Are you sure?”

Mom nodded with confidence. “You’ll do fine.”

“Okay.” I hopped into the driver’s seat of our Ford Galaxie 500.

“You’ve got plenty of room to back up,” she said while I maneuvered in Mrs. Carlson’s driveway.

The car bumped over potholes down the long dirt drive. When we reached the county road, I stopped. “Now, look both ways,” Mom instructed. “Turn your wheel to the left. Give it some gas, but take it slow. We’re not in any hurry.”

I pulled onto the narrow two-lane road. We rolled along fine until a pickup truck barreled up behind us. Mom stiffened her back and leaned forward. I glanced in the rearview mirror. I guess it didn’t occur to the man driving the blue rust bucket to slow down as he crowded our bumper. When I failed to speed up, he blasted his horn. My fingers clenched the wheel.

Mom pointed. “You’d better turn into the next driveway and let this guy pass.”

Before I reached the place where I needed to turn, the guy laid on his horn again. In a panic, Mom exclaimed. “Turn, turn here. I said turn!”

I could see I wasn’t close enough to make the turn, but I did as instructed. I jerked the steering wheel with a hard crank to the right and our car plunged into the ditch alongside the road. My foot slammed down on the gas pedal, and the engine bellowed like an angry bull. Our old Galaxie flew airborne up the other side of the ditch and plowed through a fence.

Mom yelled, “Hit the brake!” We bounced in the seat as the car landed with a thud in the middle of a pasture.

My hands dropped from the steering wheel. For a moment, we sat silently. I took several deep breaths, afraid to look at my mom.

Finally, she asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I turned to face her. I expected a harsh scolding, but when our eyes met, we burst into hysterical laughter. We threw open the doors and climbed from the car. Still laughing, we leaned against the fenders to steady ourselves.

Two brown horses stopped munching grass in the adjoining field. They trotted over to the wire fence to observe the strange happenings. If horses have eyebrows, theirs were certainly raised. They tilted their heads and stared, mouths agape. Their funny expressions triggered more giggles.

“Excuse me,” a man’s voice interrupted. “Excuse me. Are you ladies okay?”

We spotted the blue pickup parked in the driveway and an older man hiking toward us, totally confused at what was so funny.

Mom quickly pulled herself to a more dignified pose. Still shaken, she staggered through tall clumps of grass toward the irritated truck driver. “Yes, we’re fine. I was just giving my daughter a driving lesson.”

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I would never have honked my horn if I’d known a teenager was behind the wheel.”

He checked the car over and didn’t see any damage. However, the tires had sunk into the soft ground, leaving us stranded.

“Well, I’m in a hurry. As long as you ladies are okay, I’ll be on my way.”

“Thank you for stopping to check on us,” Mom said.

We watched him hop into his truck and drive off. “You’d think he might have offered us a ride,” I said.

The property owner didn’t answer the door when we knocked. Mom scribbled a note with our name and phone number and wrote we’d be back to claim the car and have the fence repaired. Then we walked to her friend Jeannie’s house, which wasn’t far.

After a cup of tea and a good chuckle, Jeanie drove us home.

When Dad arrived home from work that evening, the first words out of his mouth were, “Where’s the car?”

Mom and I exchanged a knowing smile, sealing a new bond between us. She told Dad what happened and admitted being partly at fault for overreacting to the situation. For the first time in my life, I saw her as a person, not just my mother.

And, thanks to Mom, that was not my last driving lesson.

~Kathleen Kohler

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