When I was five years old, I walked into the house and told my dad to take the training wheels off my bike. He said I wasn’t ready. I whined. I said I was. I pestered him until he stopped what he was doing and came outside with me. I actually have a clear memory of this day, but he has filled in some gaps. He asked me if I was sure. I was. So he took them off. I remember getting on my little two-wheeler and pedaling down the street. I also remember that I was afraid to turn around so I just kept going. He started calling my name and telling me to turn around. I tried, then crashed. He was there in an instant. I was crying. He assessed the damage, which was nothing major, and then told me to get back on and ride home. I said, “Maybe we should put the training wheels back on.” He said, “No.”
When I was 15 years old, dad taught me how to drive. He took me to the fairgrounds and let me loose in his commuter car, which was a turquoise-colored little Subaru. It had a manual transmission. Our other car, a Buick, was an automatic, but he thought I should learn on a stick shift. It took me awhile to get the hang of it. I was frustrated. I didn’t want to learn. I kept asking him, “Can’t I just drive the Buick?” “No,” he said. “Try again, you’ll get it.”
I didn’t have my own car until I was married. I mostly drove the Subaru when it was available. When I started modeling in San Francisco at the age of 17, one of my parents would drive me, but that became difficult. By the time I was 18 they told me I could start going on my own, but I was worried about driving the hills with a stick shift. “What if I have to stop on a steep grade?” I asked him. “What if there’s a car behind me?” And so he went with me one last time. He told me we were going to drive some hills. I asked him to drive and show me what to do. He said, “No, because you won’t learn that way.”
The day came. After my casting, I got back in the driver’s seat and off we went. We drove through neighborhoods and started with some easy hills. He would have me stop right in the middle and then continue from a stop. That wasn’t too difficult, but then we turned a corner and I looked straight up. I wish I could remember the name of the street. I said, “No way, Dad!” He calmly said, “Let’s go.” I started driving up the hill and he told me to stop. I did. Then he said, “Put on your parking brake”, which was a hand break. Then he said, “Listen carefully. You are going to take your foot off the brake and put it on the gas pedal. As you begin to put pressure on the gas, you’re gonna slowly take your foot off the clutch and slowly release the hand break. “What?” I cried. “Go ahead, and give it some good gas.” He said. And so I did. This was a long hill. I did it two more times going up and then we went around the block a few more times and did it again and again until it became like second nature for me.
When we walked in the house, my mom asked, “How’d it go?” My dad said, “Great! The hills of San Francisco are one less thing to worry about.”