Darrell Huckaby - Youngest child preparing to drive out of the nest

My life changed forever Wednesday afternoon at precisely 4:32. That's what time it was when the nice man behind the counter handed Jenna Elizabeth Huckaby her very own Georgia driver's license. This wasn't my first rodeo, understand - it was my last, which made this one toughest of all.

How can my baby be old enough to drive a car?

Big sigh, here.

I will give the state credit. They have really streamlined the process for obtaining a driver's license. When my oldest child took her test, you just had to show up and wait in line and take your chances. It was an all-day ordeal - and I mean all-day. I mean ordeal, too. It's not like that anymore. Now, you call ahead for an appointment. Now, I know what you are thinking, but you are wrong. Not only do they stay on schedule, they stay ahead of schedule. We arrived 20 minutes early and they checked us right in.

There is a lot of paperwork though. When my daddy took me to get my license, I'm not even sure if I had to prove who I was. We had to have documentation of Jenna's birth, the fact that she was registered for Social Security benefits, proof that she had taken a teenage driver's education course - yeah, you have to do that now - plus proof that she knew about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. We also had to provide a log of all the hours she has put in behind the wheel over the past 12 months.

Oh, yeah. There was one other thing. We had to submit an agreement signed by both Jenna and me stating what the consequences would be if she violated any rules. Like, what would happen if she got a ticket or let someone ride with her that wasn't supposed to ride with her. One question was about the consequences of her getting a DUI. I wrote "Death penalty," by that one. The examiner thought I was joking, but she doesn't know me very well.

Finally, it was time for her to take the wheel for the actual test and all I could do was sit and wait. Talk about mixed emotions! Former Alabama governor and Southern demagogue George Wallace once described mixed emotions as having your daughter come home from a date at 3 a.m. with a Gideon Bible under her arm.

Mixed emotions are what I had as I watched Jenna drive away with the test examiner Wednesday. One the one hand, you never want your child to fail at anything; especially something that means as much as getting a driver's license. And if she had failed, of course, I would have to deal with the tears and the pouting and the waiting for the next chance - and another afternoon would have been shot - not to mention more parallel parking lessons. I am convinced that if Job had had to teach parallel parking, he wouldn't be remembered for his patience!

But if she passed - well, then there would be another teen driver on the road and more late evenings spent staring at the clock and holding my breath until yet another car turned into the driveway. And, of course, as soon as the examiner passed her my auto insurance rates would go up even higher. I already have my paycheck direct-deposited into Scott Foster's account. If there is any left over, he sends it to me. There usually isn't.

They say that misery loves company, and at least I wasn't alone during the ordeal of waiting to see if she passed her test or not. There were three of sitting in the shade commiserating with one another.

One lady was from New York, where, according to her, nobody needs a car. Therefore, she explained, teenagers didn't need driver's licenses. Advantage New York on that one. She also tried to convince me that Nathan's hot dogs with sauerkraut and red onions are better than Fresh Air barbecue sandwiches, but I wasn't buying that one.

This lady had a 21-year-old daughter taking the test and seemed pretty calm, all things considering.

The other guy was a bit nervous. "First time?" I asked. He assured me that it was.

"The worst thing that can happen," I explained to him, "is that you'll have to come back next week and try again."

Judging from the way his son stormed out of the car when he and the examiner got back from the range, I'm guessing that's exactly what they will have to do.

But Jenna was all smiles when she got out of the car, so I knew that a new era had arrived.

Well, let's look on the bright side. I will never have to teach another human being how to parallel park, and Jenna having a driver's license is certain to bring people closer to the Lord. I know I will be praying more, and if you have to share the road with my youngest child, it might not be a bad idea for you to follow suit.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.