True fact: I don’t drive. Never have.
At sixteen, when all my friends were getting their drivers’ licenses my mom put her foot down and said I was too immature to be allowed behind the wheel of a car.
Tightly Pursed Lips
Actually, she didn’t put her foot down, but pursed her lips. Tightly. And that was that.
One year later, I came to Israel, got married, and officially made Aliyah. I may have been too immature to get behind the wheel of a car, but apparently, I was mature enough to move to a foreign country thousands of miles away from my homeland and get married.
I began having children at the rate of around one every one and a half years or so until I had 12 children. I was too immature to get behind the wheel of a car, but apparently, birthing babies had little to do with maturity. Parenting them may have been a different story, but I digress.
The Bottom Line
Now, here I am, about to turn 51 and still, no driver’s license. There are many reasons for the continuing lack of a license. The costs of driving lessons, tests, and insurance and the minimal availability of our one sadly ancient, used car which my husband must use for work are all quite valid reasons for me to rely on my feet or friends with wheels. The bottom line is that it is unlikely at this point that I will ever learn to drive.
This is a hardship for me, but one I have mostly learned to accept with grace. At times, I even manage to embrace my inability to drive a car.
For one thing, if I want to buy groceries, I have to get outside and WALK.
I may dread the walk—my BUNIONS may dread the walk. But I appreciate my need for exercise. Walking to the store means I must use my body and attempt to work the kinks out of my limbs. It’s not easy, and there is some pain involved, but I know the walk is good for me.
Once I get past the actual idea of needing to put one foot in front of the other and force myself out the door, sight and vision begin to kick in. I draw in great drafts of fresh air, the best perfume in the world, and see the not inconsiderable beauty of the town in which I live. I am able to note the seasons by the changing flora: the hints of pink brought courtesy of the cyclamen or the fine sculpted form of the first spring rosebuds as they begin their slow unfurling. Sometimes I see what looks like foam on the greenery I pass and a few days later this evolves into numerous wriggling baby caterpillars.
These I could not have noticed from behind the wheel of a car. You have to be up close and personal to see such things.
I am not just walking past things as I make my way to the store. I interact with my surroundings. I can and do run my hands through a lavender bush and revel in the clean fragrance that lingers on my hands. I touch the leaves of a sage plant and marvel at the soft, pebbly texture. I read street signs and contemplate what’s in a name: the history, the roots and meanings of the Hebrew words. And I talk to friends I pass along the way for some real live human social action.
A Bounteous Blessing
One of my favorite landmarks on my walk to the supermarket is the daycare center situated on the corner at the top of my street. If I’m lucky, the children are outside playing on the swings or in the sandbox. I like to see them and hear their childish voices. I smile every time this happens because I think of these children as the future of my people, my country, and my town. Where there are children, there is life: a continuance and a future. For someone like me, who wears her Jewish identity like a second skin, Jewish children—mine or anyone else’s—are a bounteous blessing.
The other day as I walked by the daycare center, the caregivers were getting the children ready to go for a walk. The children were partnered and holding hands, all lined up and waiting by the gate. As I passed, one of the children gave me a sunny smile and said, “Hi.”
My heart melted and I returned the smile and the greeting, but my heart overflowed with emotion much beyond what might be expected in response to a simple smile and salutation from a child not my own.
It was this: this small innocent being sees her world as a friendly world. She knows no evil. She would and does greet every person passing by, because her world—the one created for her by her parents and her small-town environment—is fully inhabited by GOOD.
Here is a child who lives in a country where taking the bus is taking one’s life in one’s hands and she smiles and says hello to a stranger. And I thought of that and my heart ached and I hoped she would never lose her innocence.
But of course she must.
Seen Nor Heard
These thoughts never would have occurred to me, had I not been walking, had I been behind the wheel of a car. I would not have heard nor seen the child and my heart would not have ached. Had I been behind the wheel of a car, I could have steeled myself from such thoughts and concentrated on my driving and my errands—the kinds of things that occupy the minds of mature adults.
But I guess my mother was right about me and my lack of readiness to get behind the wheel of a car—my lack of ability to embrace the type of thinking that comes with adulthood and maturity.
I’m just not ready.