Behind the White Line I stand in the kitchen watching our oldest daughter, Courtney pack her lunch for school. At fourteen, she towered above me, then came the interest in boys and the endless hours on the telephone. Now, at sixteen she was ready to drive, work, and date. I held back, avoiding the changes, savoring our precious time until I could no longer hold off the inevitable.
"Mom, are we ever going to get my license?" Courtney whined. Her gangly legs filled the car, knees touching the dashboard. I glanced at her--so beautiful, I thought. She brushed her blonde hair back, her lake blue eyes stared at me, perturbed at my slowness.
I had been stalling,I needed to put off the reality that my first baby was about to enter the crazy streets of Atlanta and begin driving. Ten years ago we decided to home school. It became my job to teach her to read. It was a slow, daily, consistent job, requiring the utmost commitment and hundreds of hours.
Courtney was a phonetic reader and sounded out each syllable which made me sleepy by mid-afternoon as she labored over A Cat in the Hat. It took almost five years for her to fluently read a Nancy Drew book without any help, then she took off, diving headfirst into the world of literature. Poets changed in time from Seuss to Silverstein to Frost, and then Poe and Dickinson, filling our shelves and nightstands with her newfound friends. I felt so responsible for her ability to "make it" in the real world, being her mother and teacher all these years only intensified my concern.
I wondered, would all our hard work pay off? Could she make it in the real world? What if she didn't pass the driving test? Would she feel devastated? Had I prepared her for life's setbacks as well as its victories? We stood in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles and waited our turn.
Courtney grasped the necessary papers in a nervous grip. I patted her on the back and gave a squeeze, "You'll do fine honey and remember, many people have to take the test more than once, and it's no big deal." I confessed to her that I was not a first-time passer, to soften the possible blow. A few of those questions had me stumped, a,b,c or d--they all seemed right at the time. That seems so long ago now and I've logged a few thousand, maybe a million miles to and from the ballet school, the library and Wendy's since then.
Courtney stepped up to the state patrol officer, a stern-faced women who peered over her bifocals and thrust out her hand. Courtney delivered the paperwork looking both eager and nervous. "Honey, you go over there to that computer and take the test--and ma'am--you need to go back behind the white line and wait for her." She pointed, her voice reminded me of the bullfrogs I hear by my pond on a summer's night.
Courtney looked at me, her eyes wide I mouthed, "you'll do just fine," and smoothed her hair then turned to go and sit with the other dejected parents. I sat in the metal folding chair and realized that my daughter was about to head out in a world beyond the line. I could not go where she was going. We stood in the corner and waited for the results. "I don't think I passed...when will they let me retake it?"
I told her to hang on and soon they called her name and told her to go and stand in the picture taking line. She beamed. I felt as if I had passed the test myself, but refrained from giving her a big mama-hug. To my surprise, she flung her arms around my neck. "Thanks Mom, " she said as she pulled the car door shut and drove out of the DMV parking lot. I didn't know exactly what she was thanking me for; the 15 dollar fee I paid for her license, making the time to finally get her here, or for all the quiet years we sat side by side on the couch reading Dr. Seuss, Little House on the Prairie and A Wrinkle in Time.
It didn't matter, receiving a heartfelt thanks from a teenager is a big deal, no matter what it's for. "Bye Mom, I'll be back from work at ten--love ya." Courtney yells and I hear the front door shut. Her life is filled with school, her part-time job, friends and dating, just as it should. I stand at the window, blow her kisses, and wave good-bye from behind the white line.
This article was originally published in HER--Home Education Resource Magazine, 2000.