Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Being a native Californian- second generation on my mother's side-out of loyalty I tend not to be too vocally critical of the Golden State.I've kept my disgruntlement with the timing of our property tax due dates mostly under my breath until now. But when this April 10th approached, I couldn'tcontrolthe urge to complain to anyone who'd listen. Why are our taxes due right before Income Tax Day and then againDecember 10? Boy, the folks who picked those dates must have been real Scrooges.

I wasprepared to pay my bill Friday but discovered the deadlinehad

moved to Monday because the due date fell on Saturday. It felt good to

hold on to my hard-earned cash for a couple of more days. Over the

weekend I considered taking a devil-may-care approach to this year's

tax liability and ripping up the check! Then I'd use themoney to buy a

one-way ticket to Hawaii. In Hawaii, property taxes are due in August

and February-much more civilized, I think.

But running away and facing certain penalties and prosecution didn't

win out over the values my parents taught me. Monday morning I drove to

the county offices to relinquish my funds.

Judging by the car-lined street, half of the county must have waited for the last day to pay their property taxes, too.

Along H Street a small sedan inched out onto the street. I zipped up

to claim the empty parking space, just about the right size for my

Camry if I used a shoe horn.

I smiled, eager to begin. At momentslike this I get an adrenaline

rush. As I slid up alongside the car in front and prepared to back up

into the spot, I pictured my dad riding shotgun and coaching me through

this challenge in his broken English.

Theday I turned 15-and-a-half, I was at the San Pedro DMV taking

the test for my learner's permit. After that my mother was my driving

coach. I drove to school, to the store and around empty parking lots

withMom putting her hand on the dash to brace herself andstepping on

the "brake" by pushing her right foot against the floor board as hard

as she could. No matter how well I thought I did she was a nervous

wreck. I understood the feeling years later when I attempted to teach

my sons to drive.

To learn the art of parallel parking I was handed off to the

headmaster of ourin-house driving school, my dad.My father was loving

and nurturing but he was also very strict. He expected straight As from

me in school and nothing less in driving.

Every Sunday from November to May we drove to the DMV and my father

made me practice parallel parking on the exact street where the test

was given.

His hands would wave and point and he'd yell "turn it, turn it" or

"not now, not now!" We did this for two hours every Sunday for six


Not a time goes by when I have to parallel park-especially in tight

spots-that I don't pause and look to my right and picture my dad

sitting there next to me. I focus on the technique I was taught of

parking just perfectly, and usually I do. I always think my dad is

watching, saying, "That's my girl!"