12 years old, driving mom to doctors.

Where I grew up, having a car was a necessity. The year I was born my parents had two sedans, a Saab 900 and Volkswagen Bug; additionally, they also had an old black 1960 Chevrolet  C10 military tribute truck.  My parents both commuted 20-miles each way from Marlboro to Brattleboro for work.

Over the dirt roads, onto the frost-heaved pavement, through the rain, snow, and sleet. There were times when the roads washed out and alternate routes home had to be found.

Once when we were coming home from an Easter Sunday Sunrise service at Hogback Mountain my dad’s car got stuck in the mud. It was extracted via chains and a tractor; thankfully we got stuck in front of the home of neighbors who were a family of loggers. Another time when my father was driving me back to school at Vermont Academy, in the winter, his car hit a patch of ice under the snow and we went off the road and down into the shallow end of a pond.  Again we got lucky that time, as the owners of the home near the pond owned a wrecking service.

My parents did not work the same schedules, therefore, two cars were necessary. I can’t think of anyone I met as a kid who didn’t have a car or whose parents didn’t drive. There was no public transit in Marlboro, VT unless you counted the town school buses.

I attended St. Michael’s in Brattleboro for four years, third through six grade to be exact. My mother would drop me off at school on her way to work. In the afternoons I got to choose between the following options as to how I would get home:

Option A:

  1. Bus one picked me up from St. Michael’s after school and drove us as far as a picnic clearing on Route 9 just past the Diner.
  1. Bus two comes along and picks up us kids waiting at this scenic stop on Route 9 and brings us to Marlboro Elementary School on top of the hill on Route 9.
  1. Bus three leaves from the Elementary school and brings you home on a bus with the kids from Marlboro Elementary School.
  1. You walk the remaining mile.

Option B

  1. Walk to Brooks Memorial Library.
  1. Wait for Mom to come find you in Library after work.

Option C:

  1. Walk to Brooks Memorial Library.
  1. Wait for the shuttle bus to take you to Nana’s house in Brattleboro across town over the freeways.
  1. Then wait for parents to pick you up on the way home.

Option D:

  1. Walk to Brooks Memorial Library.
  1. Wait for the shuttle bus to take you to the School for International Living where my mother worked.
  1. Hang out outside and play Frisbee with the college kids until Mom is out of work.

More often than not, I choose either Option B or C. Option A was a complete waste of time.  Option D was fun in nice weather, however, I was painfully shy back then, therefore, it wasn’t very often that I choose this option.  When I choose Option B, I I read or volunteered to help out in the children’s section of the Library. When I choose Option C I got quality time with my grandmother. I was a voracious reader and daredevil athlete from a young age. A healthy balance that my father encouraged that sometimes caused my mother to worry.

By the time, I was eleven years old my father had taught me how to drive manual not automatic and this involved many training sessions on steep hills on dirt roads. This was not unusual in where we lived. By 7th grade, most of my classmates were driving or at least boasted that they were. We lived in The Middle of Nowhere. Seriously. I don’t think most of us ventured far as we realized what a privilege it was to be able to drive and have our parents trust.

My parents, being the planners that they were, taught me this skill as soon as I was tall enough to reach the pedals – in case of emergencies. When I was twelve, one morning my mother cut herself while cooking. Blood dripped down her fingers over her rings, and she wrapped the bleeding area with a paper towel and held it up above her heart. She asked me to take her to the doctor. I was twelve years old. I drove my mother to get stitches. I drove her the 10 miles each way to her doctor’s office Wilmington. Thanks to my father’s patience and lessons, I was confident in my driving skills. I had the ability to double clutch if needed and I knew how to obey the rules of the road.

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