How do you go from here to there?
If it’s really close you walk. If it’s really far, say Israel, you fly. If it’s sort of close but not that close, like Maryland, for the wonderful and momentous brit of your newborn third great-grandson, which is about a four-hour trip from New Jersey, you do what you always do. You drive.
Driving is instinctive by now. To me, anyway. I’ve been driving since I was about 16. That’s when a boyfriend from those days let me drive his father’s car, a brand-new car I might add, around a parking lot. No kidding. And, difficult as it was, in a nearly empty parking lot, I managed to bang into someone else’s car and cause damage to both vehicles. I was talented indeed. That ended the romance and put a short shift onto my driving career.
But not for long. Being a Newarker, as opposed to being from New York City, where driving comes late and lousy, as soon as I turned 17, after completing all the requirements, I went for my road test. Nothing was more thrilling than contemplating getting my driver’s license. I finally succeeded on the third try. I won’t bore you with the details of my failed attempts, which were all due to bad luck and not to bad skills. The end result is what counts. I became a licensed driver. Hurray for me!
And for my Aunt Edna, who accompanied me to each test, although she had a driver’s license and honestly could not drive at all. In those ancient days, there were no appointments. It was show up and wait. So we showed up at 7, meaning rising before 6. Edna was a real trooper!
It seems like yesterday that all of this happened. In fact, it was 64 years ago, and I’ve been driving ever since. In dense city traffic, in Jerusalem, in bucolic country towns, on highways of every dimension, on mountain passes and unpaved roads and numerous challenging places. I’ve driven on ice and snow and in a Plymouth station wagon that always stalled when it stopped, so I learned to drive with two feet, one on the brakes and one on the gas, to fool that insane car. I drove through a torrential rain with our four kids in the car and windshield wipers that didn’t work. I drove with dogs whining and kids vomiting and even through many months of pregnancy. I love to drive and I know I’m an accomplished driver. And to top it off, I’m a master parallel parker. I get into spots where there seems to be no room at all. This is one of my lifetime skills, and I’m proud of it. I’m not nearly ready to turn in my keys!
So why is there a movement to slow me down?
I had a friend years ago who used to describe her mother-in-law thusly: her vision is terrible and her hearing non-existent. Luckily she can still drive. Yes, there are people who should not be behind the wheel. I’m just not one of them!
And then, of course, the great motivator, that paradigm, my father Sam! He was always honorable, and when he said something he meant it. In all his many years of driving (and they were many!), by some miracle, he never was in an accident. He also never checked his tires, and my childhood was filled with his car’s flat tires, the most terrifying being one night on the Pulaski Skyway, the infamous section that has no shoulders. He never used direction signals because they hadn’t existed for a good portion of his driving career, and he just couldn’t see the need or wisdom of telling all the other drivers his plans.
But despite his own very casual attitude toward driving, he made one declaration that ruined things for me. At the time I didn’t realize the personal implications. Now I understand that he was a pacesetter, and I don’t like the pace he set. You see, he announced when he was about 70 that when he turned 80 he would hand in his driver’s license. I doubt that any of us believed him, and anyway it was 10 years off into the future. In those days, when I was young, 10 years seemed like a century. Now that I’m old it seems like a brief moment in time. So I didn’t give much credence to his declaration. I was busy with life and kids and work and not about to focus on my father’s ten-year plan. Besides, it didn’t seem reasonable. After all, he and my mother lived in Clark Township, in the suburbs of New Jersey, where it’s virtually impossible to exist, short of starvation, without a car.
So I blinked my eyes, and his 80th birthday was almost upon us. Unbeknownst to us, he had his plans well made. Having lived the bulk of my married life near me and our kids, my parents would now move to Israel, specifically to Herzliya, to be near my sister and her kids. Furthermore, they would move to the center of town, where they could walk everywhere for all of their needs. And so they did exactly that. Two unlicensed drivers arrived in Herzliya, where their needs were met and no car was ever bought or used. He never backtracked, and never drove again for the remaining 18 years of his life.
I’ve passed my 80th birthday. That was a year and a half ago, to be honest, but this past year, the time of the corona plague, I hardly did any driving. Where was there to go? And if you did brave going somewhere, where would you stop for bodily needs such as food and bathrooms? We didn’t even go to the supermarket. You all know the drill. We were able to get our auto insurance reduced because the car merely sat like an ornament on the driveway. Neither we nor the car went anywhere.
But now, vaccinated and with car wheels and us ready to roll, we are planning to embark on a joyous trip to Maryland to meet our new little boy and celebrate with the rest of our family at his brit. He’s a beautiful baby, and you know our prayers for him. They’re the same as yours would be. He comes from an amazing family, two incredible parents who will shepherd him through life and make a fine and learned Jewish adult out of this precious boy, as they are doing with his two older brothers. And so we are going, without a doubt!
It’s all figured out. We will drive. But as an accommodation to traffic delays and with fear of being late, we will leave the night before and spend that time in a hotel (a bold move, first time in a long time). So we thought.
Now the interventionists in our family are intruding. It’s because they care. Drive alone? Just the two of you? Are you crazy? Well, I won’t go in a car with you behind the wheel. Not me!
And so that’s where we are right now. We want to help them out and take them to the brit. They don’t trust our driving!
Final word: we’re going and we’re driving! Period.