When I was in the third grade, the dear Ursuline Sisters at St Jerome's School in Cleveland decided it was "in my best interest" to skip me over the fourth grade, and right into the fifth grade. So, there I was... already shy, and now I was both shy and a year younger than everyone else.
From then on, I always felt sort of "odd." At least, I wasn't the only one. The dear Sisters also skipped my friend Ann Marie Zeitz straight from the third grade to the fifth grade. They said that Ann Marie and I always finished first in everything. They said we weren't "challenged..." and that we would both benefit from a more difficult curriculum.
Ann Marie and I just hated it. We had gone from being at the top of the heap... and feeling enough like oddballs... to being the youngest two girls in the class, and of course the smallest... and feeling even more like oddballs.
Now we fast-forward to my Senior year in high school. I had turned sixteen the previous February, in my Junior year. All my friends had been driving for a year or more, and there I was... always being driven wherever... by my mother.
Oh, the shame of it all. I just could not wait to turn sixteen and get my driver's license... my "ticket..." at least in my own mind... my ticket to catching up to the rest of my classmates.
I was then told that I had to wait until the next September... the beginning of my senior year... before I could get into "driver's ed" class... a prerequisite for taking my license test.
I was very nervous during my first driver's ed class. First driving too slow, then really stepping on the brakes... and jolting everyone in the car all over the place. One day while driving, with my driver's ed teacher sitting right next to me, I was stopped at a light, waiting for it to turn green. I kind of relaxed, and my foot eased off the brake pedal, and I actually HIT a Cleveland Metro Transit BUS stopped in front of me. (Actually, I just barely "nudged" it.) No damage, luckily, but yikes did the word about that ever get around the school quickly.
Finally, driver's ed was over, I took my test, and passed it. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to get home and tell my Dad that I passed my test... and that my license would be mailed in a week.
My license finally came. I was so excited... until my Father told me I could not drive until my Father's insurance company "put me on the insurance policy. It was late October at the time. So... I started waiting... patiently at first... then not so patiently as time wore on. I'd come home from school, pester my Mom... have you heard from Dad ? Am I on the insurance policy yet? When Dad came home, I would always run up to him... Dad, Dad... any word yet ? No, Karen... nothing yet.
Thanksgiving passed, and into December we went. I waited, and waited... and... nothing. Dad said they lost the application at first, then he said they had my license number wrong... they transposed two of the numbers. It was always something. I began to really get suspicious.
Finally, Christmas Day rolled around. There we were... at home early Christmas afternoon. All of a sudden, my Dad called to me. My Mom had been harping at him to drive over to my Grandmother's house and bring her back for Christmas Dinner. Dad was in a trance... he was watching some goofy football game... and kept ignoring my mother. Finally, she yelled at him again. "Al... Go Get Your MOTHER !"
It was then that my Dad looked at me. A little sheepishly at first, and then with a devilish grin. Then he said... "Karen, here's the car keys... Go Pick Up Your Grandmother !"
Dad, I'd like to, but you keep telling me I can't... until the insurance letter comes. He started laughing... slowly at first... then uncontrollably... like he had just been told a really funny joke. He said... "oh, I forgot to tell you... the insurance letter finally came yesterday." "Here's the keys... Karen Anne... Go Pick Up Your Grandmother."
I was so thrilled that I was finally legal. I just couldn't believe it. I took the keys, and there I was... all by myself... driving my Mom's 1957 Ford Fairlane 500. Was I cool, or what ? Grandma was surprised, Christmas dinner was great, and I could finally drive.
It wasn't until my Dad died, and we kids were going through his things... making sure we kept certain little treasures to remind of us things we did with Dad... that I actually saw that insurance letter. Dad had it wrapped up with a rubber band with a bunch of birthday cards and Father's Day cards I had given him through the years.
There it was... the letter from the insurance company... dated one week after I passed my test. He had had the letter for two whole months before told me about it. I tried to be angry, but all I could do was laugh. That was just like my Dad. I guess if it wasn't for him watching that doggone football game... and being yelled at to pick up my Grandmother... I would have had to wait until after High School Graduation... to finally get behind the wheel. Whew !