Scene 1: The Invitation (Friday, June 2nd, 1967)
In early June 1967, Karen was almost sixteen and a half and finishing her second year at Joseph Pomeroy Widney High. Widney was behind the LA Trade-Technical College and the old Orthopedic Hospital, before it specialized in children. In those days, Widney was for teenagers whose disabilities were physical. Now it serves only students with intellectual delays.
During her last class, on the last Friday of the school year, Karen tuned out the classroom sounds and daydreamed about getting a driver’s license and a car of her own. She would drive back and forth to Gil’s independently, like some of her friends. Some drove in their leotards, and so would she. She sighed. It seemed like a distant goal, but she knew if she believed in herself, it was possible. And she did. She believed in herself. Her fearlessness outweighed her fear. She might not pass the driving test. Her learning disability might make the written test too hard. She had discussed this with Pegasus and Mama. Pegasus thought she should follow her fundamental essence. Mama was not so sure because this meant her baby was growing up.
The bell rang, and she said goodbye to the teacher and left the classroom with the other students. She was conscious of how strong her stance had become, of how sure-footed she was, and how imperceptible was her limp. Over the past two years, every aspect of her physical and emotional existence had developed into a powerful, sure-footed physique, and a calm, focused mind.
As she walked toward the school bus home, a teacher she did not know hurried up to her. He was short, with an olive complexion, neatly trimmed black hair, and a big mustache that matched his hair.
He said, “Excuse me. Are you Karen Hearshstein?”
“Karen, I’m Mr. Dominguez, the lead teacher for the Driver’s Ed Program. Would you like to learn to drive this summer?”
She grinned and fanned herself with her right hand. The teacher appearing just when she was thinking about driving. The universe answering her. “I was just thinking about that. I’d love to.”
“You will get classroom instruction and learn the basics using simulators here at school. When you’re ready, you will get your learner’s permit and practice in an actual car. By the end of the summer, you should have your driver’s license. Some of your classmates have already signed up. It will be lots of fun, if you’re willing to try it.”
“Yes, of course. You don’t have to ask twice. When do I start?”
“Monday morning. Get a parent or legal guardian to sign this permission slip and bring it with you.” He handed her a piece of paper. “And here’s the class schedule. You know where the classroom is?”
“Yes. Sometimes I peek in and watch the students on the simulators.”
He grinned at her eagerness. “You are going to do great. Welcome to Driver’s Ed.”
Karen watched him hurry away and felt her heart pulsating. This would bring a whole additional dimension to her life. She would run her own errands, help mama out, and be more independent. She would be more like a person without a disability.
She climbed the bus steps and settled into a seat. Amazing. This will release me from Mama’s apron strings. If I can get her to say yes.
Original text ©2023 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.