From another State, another one is on his way,
Hard to believe but another young man in the gene pool has collected L plates, with suction cups, and is on his way to taking control of the driver’s seat! When I first saw the picture, sent by his beautiful Mum to my iPhone I wondered what the golf balls were for! Oscar is a fine young man. Clever, creative, a sense of social justice and inclusion nurtured by his Mum and Dad and a brilliant wit.
I remember how proud I was when I collected my Ls. Tests were not as stringent. My Dad used to take me to Kooragang Island on Sundays to learn how to reverse park between bricks strategically placed on the road. No traffic in those days. No Stockton Bridge. There would be many other Dads doing the same thing in preparation for the driving test.
We had an automatic Holden Station Wagon. Reverse parking, 3 point turn, hill starts were a cinch. Parental consensus discerned that I should also learn about driving a “ geared car”. My brother had a mini. The year was probably 1968 or 69.
My brother used to spend Mondays at our home and one day, Mum decided that it was time for me to master the clutch and gear stick. We set out around 4.00pm. Knock off time at the steel works and other associated industries that dotted the route to what was still a very quiet, undeveloped Kooragang. I think it was before seatbelts.
Mum took up position in the driver’s seat, wriggled the gear stick back and forth, “ You must remember to start in neutral, Louie” turned the key and then said “ I haven’t driven a car with four gears on the floor. Now where is first gear.” Suddenly my stomach had relocated to an imaginary place between my ankles and I began reciting the Act of Contrition in case I died before the end of the journey.
Mum crunched and clunked her way through the gears until she was almost smoothly in control and we made it to the Island. We swapped seats and I did a bit of driving. No other traffic to be seen and then she said “Now you can drive home.”
By that time the departing traffic from the local industries had become a bumper to bumper slow moving conga line punctuated by honking horns. I didn’t stall it every time traffic came to a stop. Just enough times for the car behind me to tip me over the edge of obedience, find the first left turn side street, pull into the kerb and get out,
Mum’s reaction was not a surprise. I was ordered back into the drivers seat. Not surprisingly either, I refused. “ You don’t even know where fourth gear is Mum,” “ I’m telling you, get back in the car or I will never travel in the car with you again.” I didn’t. Mum and I started the great silence, something at which we were equally skilled.
Mum made it to 98. She handed in her licence in her mid 80s. One of my favourite things to do with her was to take her to visit her relatives, attend funerals ( not really a highlight) and to enjoy her company. On every trip, at least once in the journey, she would say to me “ I am glad I taught you to drive so well!”
So to my son and his soulmate – enjoy the journey. I remember the first time Ken drove me to Sydney to see a show. Proud beyond words of his very first car, geared of course, it was a great trip! My enduring memory of that trip was shutting my eyes on the Harbour Bridge and again confessing my sins as the rear of the last car in the conga line of traffic slowed to a crawl! Thank God for his size 13 feet and the effectiveness of the brakes!
Not to mention the seat belts!
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