Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writing Prompt: First Driving Lesson! Yikes!

This weekend I took my oldest son for his first driving lesson! He is sixteen and just got his Learner's Permit. Watching him reach this milestone has been both exciting and scary at the same time, as I'm sure many of you can appreciate. I'm very proud of the young man he has become, and while part of me would like him to stay my little boy, the other is honored to accompany him on this very important step towards independence. Luckily, the RMV now publishes a pamphlet with tips for parents who are supervising teen driving. Unsure as I am at how to teach someone to drive, I am grateful for this informative booklet. Leafing through it, I learned some new recommendations such as safer ways to set rear view mirrors and how to best hold a steering wheel to avoid injury from an airbag (hands at 3:00 and 9:00 o'clock). Cars, technology and rules have changed in the twenty somewhat years since I first hit the road and—like with many aspects of parenting—I find myself learning something new as I re-live this landmark experience with my son.

Our first lesson, as recommended by my RMV teaching "bible," was actually a non-driving lesson. It  went well enough. I helped him familiarize himself with all aspects of the vehicle from the breaks to the tire pressure and everything in between. Are you wondering what all this have to do with genealogy? I'm getting there.
My New Bible

Our next lesson, took place in a deserted parking lot where my son got behind the wheel for the first time. I hope he will forgive me for disclosing the fact that he was petrified of driving. This somewhat irrational fear, originated at the age of ten when he crashed a golf cart into a tree, broke the windshield and remained quite traumatized. Last week, I practically had to drag him to the RMV to take the permit test. Part me thought: he's scared of driving, great! Driving is dangerous especially for teenagers. No rush. He can learn as an adult. But, as a mom, I believe my main job is to help him become independent. Driving is a huge part of independence and it's therefore also my responsibility to help him conquer this fear. Besides, I need him to drive! Having to pick him up from a late practice, while making dinner and picking up my two other boys, is just about killing me. This  actual first lesson was simple and aimed to instill confidence. We practiced starting and stopping, breaking and accelerating smoothly (at up to 15 miles an hour), and turning. I'm happy to report, he did beautifully. We didn't crash into any trees! By the end, he was beaming with self-confidence and belief that he will master this important skill.

As I complimented his figure-eights, he asked me a question which made me pause. "Was your first driving lesson like this mom? Did you do this well?" I thought about it. I racked my brain. But for the life of me, I couldn't remember my first driving lesson. "Really mom? How can you forget your first driving lesson?" he was shocked. "I know. I didn't crash, so it must have gone well," was my unsatisfying answer. I stopped myself from sharing with him my next thought: he probably won't remember this moment thirty years from now either.

This is where genealogy comes in.

William and Ethel Bloomfield (the "whinny,"
distracting tot) with the Model-T Ford.
Read more about Minnie's car accident
in Stored Treasures, A Memoir.
Significant events in our lives, such as bar mitzvah's, weddings and yes, getting our driver's license, are all part of our story. Many have long lasting affect on who we are. In the same way we enjoy re-living them with our children, they enjoy hearing and learning from past. But how many of us take the time to record these moments? It occurred to me, that my son's question, is a great writing prompt for my memoir project. Before he asked, I hadn't thought to include learning to drive in my own memoir or in the ones I'm challenging my friends and family to write, but I should. If my sixteen-year-old is interested, then other teens are interested as well. We can all relate to this almost universal. It also exemplifies cross-generational shared experiences and how they changed over the years. Most of our parents taught us to drive without a guide book. My mother, learned to drive at thirteen. How scary is that? (In 1961, it was legal to drive that young in Texas). My great-grandmother learned to drive as an adult, the early 1920s, when Ford made the price of cars accesible and my great-grandparents bought their first model-T (for about $200 dollars). She crashed, early on, shattering the windshield, while driving only fifteen miles an hour. She was distracted by her "whinny" five-year-old daughter. Things have changed. Minnie struggled with a distracting tot. My son has to learn to drive with the added distractions of cell phone and texting (which the pamphlet wisely recommends to power-off during driving lessons).

I thank my son for reminding me that it's both the milestones and the little things which make for great writing prompts. I also thank him for participating in genealogy without noticing and despite his stated "non-intrest." I hope that in thirty years from now, he will appreciate I documented his first driving lesson, and can share this post with his children. I promise to ask my parents about teaching me to drive. Maybe they can help jolt my memory so I can add a driving chapter to my own memoir.

Do share your first driving stories with us! Does it belong in a memoir?


  1. Nicely put, Smadar!

    While I can't say I had the privilege of having my parents teach me how to drive--I achieved that milestone via the public school system, where I did exactly what my instructor told me to do and removed the side view mirror from its casing courtesy of an unexpected street-side mailbox--I certainly can relate to your exercise of teaching your son. We went through the same process with our daughter, who like your son was terrified of learning to drive. It took a lot of coaxing and encouragement--and just handing her the keys and saying, "You're the driver for this trip"--to bring her to the level of confidence she has long since attained.

    You have a valuable point in ferreting out those everyday moments that evoke strong feelings--memories that everyone has, that everyone has had to overcome. Reliving those memories can make for some vivid writing, as well as put life into one's family history.

  2. Thanks for sharing Jacqi. He will be doing Driver's Ed as well. I hope I can spare him from hitting any mailboxes!! I do really like weaving the present into the family "story" which will some day become history. Sometimes genealogy seems so dry to the younger generation and I'm always looking for ways to draw them in!

  3. I don't remember your 1st driving lesson, I think your father took you to the Burlington Mall & I did it a few times later on. I do remember your dismay when you were not allowed to learn to drive stick shift on our car when you were in college. You probably remember that story. My respect for my mother having allowed me to drive our car when I was 13 rose when confronted with teaching you to drive at 16! I felt totally unprepared to teach you. Not having too much confidence as a new driver is a good thing! Only as an adult did my mother tell me she followed her children when they started driving alone a few times to be sure that we were driving safely. I never realized she had done it, but did follow you after you drove independently once or twice. You were a good responsible driver. Your son will be, too! Glad you wrote about it!

  4. Wow Mom! I never knew you followed me or that your mother followed you! That's not only a great story but a great idea! I'll certainly do that! Abba did say he took me to the mall. I still can't remember the first time I got behind the wheel though. I do remember learning to drive stick on Nina's car. She had such a soft clutch that you could really be in any gear, it didn't matter. Then, I finally tried your car (which if I remember was correctly was a new car) and it was not so easy to shift. Keep the stories coming!

  5. Hi Smady, brief comment via my phone. Thanks for sharing this experience. I'm about to embark on the same process with my son Ari turning 16 in two Weeks.
    Thanks for making me more aware that this first experience may have long lasting effects. Pour kids may not be able to remember the factual details of the first lesson, but I'm sure that they will remember how they felt I hopefully loved, cared for and trusted and will do the same for their kids.
    Evelyn Stein.

  6. Evelyn, thanks for checking in from your phone. I agree, it's really important to help them feel trusted and love. Driving is an important opportunity to send them that message. Can you believe, my mom drove behind me, to make sure I was OK. Part of sharing these posts, is to learn more about myself. I would have never known this fact, if I hadn't written about this experience which jogged my mother's memory. Genealogy is really so much about learning more who you are. It's a universal need we share, to know ourselves better. It's amazing how even when we know ourselves better than anyone, there is still so much to learn and discover. It's also amazing that learning from our family history, can shed so much light onto who we are! See you soon at your next big mile stone!

  7. I remember my first driving lesson and i was so very nervous,thanks for sharing it i feel i am miss to have driving lesson even i am professional.

  8. It is always heartwarming to see parents and kids bond in whatever way possible. A driving lesson seems to be a good alternative. It is advisable to promote road safety to your children because first-time drivers tend to be over excited while handling their first car. In relation to this, a second hand car might be a better choice for first time drivers. Some would also advice that one should start driving using manual transmission to understand the basic technicalities of driving.

  9. I agree with all of the above tips Clint. I also think it's good for kids to save up for their first car, which makes them more responsible about handling it!

  10. Awww! Your post reminded me of my first driving lessons. I was so nervous I keep hitting the brake for no reason, lol! But since I had a pretty awesome teacher (my dad), I got really good with it that I aced my driving lessons at school. I’m sure that bonding moment will make you guys closer together. It sure brought my dad and me a lot closer! =)

  11. Couldn't agree with you more Dante! These are the moments that bring families closer. They are universal type moments whom everyone can relate to!

  12. Only a few kids now get to be taught how to drive by their parents. And that’s one thing I never would’ve wanted to be erased as a tradition. It’s different when your teacher is someone from the family. They will thrive to do good not only because they are interested, but because they want to please you, and not just to pass the test. After all, the success of the student is a reward for the teacher. :] Another thing is learning to drive first in manual transmission. Today’s cars are becoming more intelligent, you won’t even need to maneuver the car yourself to parallel park in some. I think it is more fulfilling to be able to drive, when you know you have total control of the car. ;]


Thanks for sharing your comments!