tangential lucie baldwin

You know what? I get it. Well, I mean I’m starting to get it. Kids grow up. They walk, they talk. They learn to add and subtract; and eventually, they reach a level of algebra that surpasses my diminished capacity. They learn how to play a sport or a musical instrument. They may even pick up a second language. However, here’s something you might not know: They drive. And we’re not talking Big Wheels or those little imitation things that buzz up and down the driveway—actual cars.

Last week, Cranky turned 15. It was a Sunday and it was pretty much like any other day; well, any other birthday. She chose where she wanted to go for dinner, opened a few gifts, replied to 72 Happy Birthday texts and read the 2,000 wall posts from well-wishers on Facebook. You know, pretty much like when we were kids. All in all, it was a very pleasant day. At least that’s what I was thinking as I settled in for the evening to catch up on an old episode of The Mentalist. That’s when it happened. It seems like that’s when it always happens—like that moment in a slasher flick when the main character finally breaths a sigh of relief, safely tucked away in a closet, and suddenly, the ax smashes through the door.

Mom, can you take me to the license bureau tomorrow? I want to get my learner’s permit. Um, what? I quickly circle the wagons and prepare my defense—I knew that law degree would pay off at some point. Well, you know there’s a test, right? To my surprise, she is prepared with her response. I know there’s a test. I told you I’ve been studying. Silly me. When a child is in their room 'studying,' I just assume they are talking on the phone or watching TV. I’ve taken four practice tests, and I passed two and failed two. OK. I’m liking my odds—factor in nerves and the oh-so-cozy atmosphere at the DMV, there’s no way she’s passing that test.

So off we go. In she goes. Out she comes. Out she comes with a suspiciously official-looking document. She passed. By one question, she passed. I drove us back to a less-congested area and was promptly ordered to surrender the wheel. The remaining blocks passed in a blur. I can recall a few winces, a dashboard grab and a strong leftward lean—as if willing the car not to hit a mailbox. I know the policy about drinking and driving, but I’m wondering what the rules are for passengers. Well, 352 more days of this and she’ll be on her own—a licensed driver. Then I can stop worrying. Right?

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