July 13, 2014 by Karin Fuller

Beware, West Virginia.

My daughter has her driver’s license.

Not only that, she has use of a car. An old cobalt blue Neon that came with an aftermarket muffler already installed, so you can hear her coming from a good distance away. I consider it the vehicular equivalent of a bell around a cat’s neck. To warn.

This milestone has been a long time in the making. Celeste first talked of getting her license when she wasn’t even in preschool. She climbed in one of those quarter-operated cars outside a grocery store and immediately began pounding hard on the horn and yelling for people to get out of her way.

I have no idea where she might’ve learned such a thing.

She was forever begging to drive around parking lots or up my parent’s long driveway, but then, once she finally reached legal age, the begging abated. For months, there was no mention of getting her license. The reality of being responsible for a fast-moving 4,000 lb. piece of steel suddenly seemed less appealing.

At least, for a while.

I have myself to blame. I complained, perhaps a bit too much, about having to drive her back and forth to work all the time. She had taken on a second job for the summer, and there was simply no way to manage transportation to fit everyone’s schedule unless she could do some of the driving herself. But much as I wanted her to be driving, I just as much didn’t.

This has been one of the scariest parts of parenting I’ve encountered thus far.

We began practicing in earnest. I taught her the basics–maneuvering through drive-through windows, the ever-important wave of acknowledgement when someone lets you in traffic, and how essential it is that the part of the car with the four rubber things on it needs to stay on the road.

When it came time for her test, the instructor asked who had been teaching her.

“Mostly my mom,” Celeste said.

“Did she teach you how to parallel park?” the woman asked.

“Sort of,” said Celeste. “She taught me to drive around until I could find a spot I could pull straight into.”

Somehow, she still managed to pass.

The next week was spent trying to find a cheap yet dependable used car. The day Celeste was in town to go with me to look at a car was the same afternoon she found the nearly dead baby bird. Her first few excursions upon getting the car were to get supplies for that bird.

It’s been interesting how, in the weeks since then, as the bird’s grown stronger and more independent, so has Celeste with her driving.

And now it’s the bird I’m teaching to fly.  This I do by letting him perch on my finger and then dropping my hand suddenly so he has to extend his wings for balance. After a few times, he’ll fly.

He has the airborne part down fairly well, but his landings—much like Celeste’s attempts at parking—leave much to be desired. Soon, though, my baby will be gone. The time for letting go is drawing near.

It’s said there are two gifts we should give our children. One is roots, and the other is wings.

Or maybe a little blue Neon.

With a muffler bell.

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