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Archive for June, 2013

I’m spending a lot of time lately driving through the countryside on small country roads.  It is both restful, and stressful.  How can it be both?  I’m teaching my 17-year-old to drive.  In Indiana teenagers can now have to wait until they are 16 1/2 before they can get their license.  My son has waited until he is 17 and 3/4,  he will be 3 months shy of his 18th birthday before he completes the required 40 hours of driving and take his test, a fact that is hard for me to understand.  I wanted my license the day I turned 16, I couldn’t wait for the independence that piece of paper represented. I started driving in the corn fields that surrounded our house well before I turned 15 and took drivers ed.  The freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, providing of course that I could use the car.  It was a symbol of growing up and I wanted desperately to be grown up.  My oldest son also wanted, and got, his license as soon as he turned 16.  Although I actually needed him to have his license at that point, living in the mountains of Colorado, in light of everything he managed to do that he wasn’t supposed to, there were many days when I wished I hadn’t let him get his license.  Yes, hindsight is twenty – twenty.

The current 17-year-old has been in absolutely no hurry to achieve that state of independence.  I have been the one that has pushed him to learn to drive.  I had to threaten to ground him to get him to study for the written exam necessary to get his learner’s permit.  I set a deadline by when he had to have taken it.  That was a year ago.  And he really hasn’t cared much about getting behind the wheel to practice actually driving.  Until recently.  I’m not sure what actually jump started him.  Maybe it was the fact that his girlfriend has now been driving for 4 months.  Maybe he wants to find a way to have some privacy with said girlfriend. (Hmm…maybe he shouldn’t get his license?)  Or maybe it was just a turn on the chronological wheel.  Whatever the reason, I am now spending time as a passenger traveling the byways of Indiana.  We haven’t made it to the highways yet.

For the most part, he is doing well.  Everyday he gains confidence in his driving skills, and my knuckles become a little less white (there are some indentations in the passenger side armrest, I’m sure they will go away in time).  For the most part I’ve stopped pushing my foot down as if I’m stamping on the brakes.  I’ve learned to communicate more clearly EXACTLY what action he needs to take RIGHT NOW.  And I’m actually starting to look around at the country we are driving through.

I love watching the rolling fields, green with spring planted corn.  We’ve had enough rain this year that it looks like it will be “knee-high by the 4th of July”.  Stands of trees, tall and strong against the summer sun, dot the landscape, usually surrounding  a farm homestead.  Sometimes the houses are compact and neat, white sided, fronted with neatly planted flower beds a riot in color.  Sometimes they are huge old Victorians, faded paint shadowed by ancient oaks.  Crumbling stone and concrete silos stand next to towering blue Harvestors.  Occasionally we come upon a stately old brick, with ivy climbing all the way to the top stories.  What stories each of these must hold.  How many generations were born, how many fought the earth, the wind, the rain and the sun to rest a living out of the ground, to keep this land as theirs?  How many did the earth, the wind, the rain and the sun claim as payment?   How many gave in, sold out, and moved to the city or sought greener pastures further west?  Who built that stone silo that now slowly crumbles back into the ground?  If we stopped, would the farmer driving a tractor through his field tell us the stories of his land?

We don’t stop, of course.  We have a mission to complete.  15 more hours behind the wheel before he can take his test.  15 more hours behind the wheel before he reaches another stage in his independence.  15 more hours behind the wheel while I watch the Indiana countryside roll by, and decide whether I am happy, or sad,  that he finally wants his independence.

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