As a child, there are many milestone moments that define your independence. Learning to crawl. Walk. Playing outside by yourself. Riding a bike. Walking to a friend’s house unescorted. Going to the movies with friends. Each accomplishment brings us closer and closer to the ultimate independence – becoming an adult and leaving home to carve your own path in this world.
One rite of passage in this chain of events is learning how to drive a car. Although it has been many decades since I first sat behind a steering wheel, white knuckled in complete panic of forgetting how to use the clutch and the brake at the same time, nothing quite compares to that moment when you walk into a Department of Motor Vehicles building and realize – THIS. IS. IT.
Last week, after four months of stalling, my daughter finally decided the time had come to tackled the dreaded computer test she needed to pass in order to get her learner’s permit. Now if you know anything about my favorite teenager, you know she is a VERY conscientious student and takes assessments of any kind with the seriousness you might retain for passing your bar exam in law school. This learner’s permit test was a BIG DEAL.
We arrived at DMV and I started to take a picture of the sign. “Wait. Don’t jinx it.” The warning flashed in vibrant red neon in my mind. We walked in and agreed we would speak only in hushed tones. OK, maybe we didn’t ACTUALLY agree to that per se, but that’s what happened. We received our ticket number, filled out the paperwork, then sat to wait. And wait. And wait.
I started to giggle. Not the most appropriate thing to do while waiting for a very important and serious event, but all I could think of was the movie Beetlejuice and the final scene where Beetlejuice is so tired of waiting that he swaps his ticket with the guy beside him who happens to have a shrunken head. All of a sudden, his new number is called, but before he can take a step, his head shrinks, too! (Wait – is that exactly what happens? Now I’m second guessing my memory of the movie.) Either way it made me giggle and I received a very sharp, this-is-not-funny, glare from my daughter. Then I looked down at my ticket number.
T90! Oh my gosh, now the giggles became stifled laughter. Really? This was our ticket number? My very first set of license plates were personalized plates: Tamie 90. Here I was, sitting in a DMV with my daughter to get started on HER license and the ticket number was an abbreviation of my first license plate. What are the chances of THAT?! Surely that was a good sign, right?
“Don’t jinx it, Mom,” my daughter whispered, her eyes glued to the ticket number screen. Apparently I was the only one savoring the moment of perfect coincidences.
Her number was called shortly thereafter and we approached the main counter. The gal who was waiting on us had a kind smile and an even sweeter personality. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll do fine!” She instinctively knew the stress my daughter tried so hard to hide. As she verified all the pertinent information, she glanced up and smiled again. “It will be OK.” Her comforting words were like a virtual pat on the hand, gentle and reassuring. As she turned to get her manager, I noticed the stars posted on the wall behind her.
As you can see by the photo above, these construction paper star cut-outs were nothing fancy, didn’t have any glitter or sparkle added, but I can guarantee whoever’s name was listed received the biggest heart-warming smile when they realized their good deeds at work were recognized and shared for all to see. It made me very happy to see DMV recognizing their employees in such a positive way!
The manager came by and also smiled at my daughter. “Now, don’t you second guess yourself. You stick with the first answer you know. You’ll get this!” Her friendly advice was spoken with the warmth of a cozy sweater, much like the one she was wearing around her shoulders. She added her approval to our paperwork then directed us to the end of the counter.
As we approached yet another DMV representative, this one held the keys to independence. If my daughter failed her test, she would have to wait weeks on end to try again. If she passed… jubilation! The stress was so stifling I actually looked for a knife to slice it.
She walked the green mile to the testing area and I stood, helpless, suddenly frozen in the moment. My little girl was growing up. In that instant, I recalled each and every milestone moment that led us here and suddenly wanted to call her back. She was ready. I was not.
I sat down. My mind swirled as I prayed. Just as I encouraged her to take those unassisted baby steps at ten months of age, I wanted her to know the feeling of success. I waited. And waited. And waited. And then… a screech of a chair. Footsteps. A smile.
Those waiting around me knew the importance of this moment. They reflected the smile on my daughter’s face and I could almost picture speech bubbles above their heads shouting, “Way to go!” “You did it!” “Wahoooo!” I looked back to the warden, her keys to my daughter’s freedom stamped in swirling black ink. “Great job! You’re all set!” She smiled back at us, a moment of joy shared by us all.
As we walked outside into the brightness of day, my daughter laughed and said, “We can take a picture now!” Oh, the joy of being a teenager!
A special thank you to the following ladies at the Brook Road office of Department of Motor Vehicles: Trena Myrick, L. Jefferson, and Nikia Jenkins. Your kindness made all the difference in our daughter’s experience and I cannot thank you enough for your smiles and words of wisdom. We appreciate all you do in your job, and we hope DMV will recognize you in a wonderful way for your exemplary attitude!
Thank you faithful readers for sharing this journey with me – take time today to tell someone “Thank You” for a job well done!