First she has to use the restroom. I take a number. Actually, I pull three only to find I need none.
“Just give me a minute,” the frizzy-haired woman tells me as I interrupt her conversation with her co-worker, the much younger, shorter skirted fire-haired girl. We take a seat. I can’t let my daughter know I’m nervous for her. I don’t use the restroom.
“I can see you now.” My fifteen-year-old daughter, her two younger sisters and I walk over to the woman’s open office counter.
“Birth certificate, please,” the woman says automatically. I produce it from the small folder my daughter preferred to the big manilla one I suggested. Her sisters are unusually well-behaved and interested. I comment on the woman’s cool undulating keyboard.
“Did you bring your completed form?”
“Yes,” my daughter takes over, pointing to the pink form.
“Please sign your name here.”
My daughter sheepishly asks, “Can I print my name?”
“Whichever you normally do.” This is the same answer I told her at home.
“Place your right index finger in the scan and hold it there. Okay. Please read line 1 on the chart behind me. Good. Cover one eye and read line 3. Cover the other eye and read line 5.”
That’s over. Thankfully, my daughter can see six feet in front of her!
“That’ll by thirty-one dollars.” No one is confused about who is paying. I write a check payable to DMV and ask what day it is, knowing I can’t fit “15 going on 30” into the upper right corner.
“Let’s take your picture. Stand in front of that screen and look at the blue dot.” Her sisters mumble she should have dressed up for this, instead of wearing her black and orange high school tee-shirt, and a streak of cherry kool-aid in her hair. Her first photo is trashed because she is not looking at the camera, so we preview the second black and white shot which conceals the flare in her hair. This much is fine with her, though she thinks her photo is only so-so.
“It’s time for her to do this on her own,” the woman announces and hands her a forty-five question exam.
As my daughter nabs the only available chair to sit to take the exam, I say “good luck,” and take her sisters home. They were really good about not being distracting and coming directly after school to make the 3:15 appointment. I drive to and from home, hoping she won’t have to re-take the exam, wondering if she’d ever be caught dead driving my clunker mom van. Ugh. I feel like a bicycle tube leaking air, because her dad and I haven’t given her a car. I sit my deflated self back down in the waiting area. I wait–and wait.
I text her dad, ‘they are checking her exam’ — ‘she missed 5’
‘how many can she miss?’
I text back, ‘she passed’
I want to high-five her, but resist. “Good job! Are you excited?”
“I’m relieved,” she says as she exhales long over her lips parting into a smile. She’s taught me to leak, not gush.