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Learning to Drive by Helen Chappell

I couldn’t wait to turn sixteen. I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of a car and go where I wanted to go and do want I wanted to do. A driver’s license meant teen freedom, and teen freedom was what I was looking for. It was the era of the Beach Boys, when our bands sang about cars and driving around with your best girl and surfin’ USA. This last wasn’t important to me, and I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I desperately wanted to get out. Out of the house and away from my parents, away from the hell that was high school, where I was not in with any crowd, and desperately a polar opposite of the popular cheerleaders. Whether I knew it or not at the time, I was like 96% of American teens in the mid-’60s. Hormonal, insecure, a hopping bag of hope and premature cynicism, with an incipient rising social consciousness and a desperate yearning for something more than the century-old academic program of my high school and the weary disapproval of my parental units at home. Oh, if I knew then what I know now. If my parents had smoth-

ered me, I wouldn’t blame them. I was obnoxious and whiny and knew it all. Well, some things never change, but at the time, I was pretty unbearable, I think, even for a teenager. In my imagination, I was driving toward my dreams, which in those days mostly involved folksingers, handcrafted ethnic clothing and being a hell of a lot more hip than the dreary provincialism of small town life. I lacked the courage to run away to Sausalito and live on a houseboat among beatniks, which was my secret dream, so the next best thing was to get a driver’s license and have fun, fun, fun ’til Daddy took the T-bird away, as the Beach Boys sang, and as one of my BFFs liked to quote in dripping irony. Our little clique was totally about irony. It was our defense against the jocks and the cheerleaders, the hoods and the hoodettes, which were pretty much your choices in my high school. Our little group liked to fly under the radar. Back in those days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth (and, believe me, when you had road kill then, you had road kill), schools 9

Tidewater Times June 2011  

June 2011 Tidewater Times

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