The Driving Force

The almost-youngest members of the family just got their driver’s licenses. I am supposed to feel fear and trepidation about this – but I’ve driven people places so many times for so many reasons for so many years that I feel only relief and joy. Although we probably shouldn’t be, we are a car culture and most of the places they have to go, at least in places we’ve always lived, require a car ride. When we lived in Wisconsin, we lived seven miles from the nearest store, school or doctor. That’s not far, unless you’re footing it in 90-degree (or zero degree) weather. Here, the walk to any kind of destination other than a neighbor’s house is about two or three miles, and, when I read about the distances people walk to work in other countries, I’m embarrassed to think that this distance stops me. I am not, however, embarrassed to point out that struggling home with enough potatoes and milk to feed the family of seven that still lives under this roof would be a deal-breaker. I know that I wouldn’t like living in a city: I would hate living on a city street next to the high-rise and the bagel place. Some people love it. Some people are appalled even by the proximity of other people. I remember being young and living in an apartment … and my friend Jim writing to me, from his own similarly flimsy digs across the city, “I don’t know what love is but now I know what it sounds like because of the walls in this dump.” (He also wrote that the air conditioning had two speeds, “hot and not-so-hot, the latter of which generally describes the whole place.” AH! For the days of letters … but that’s another blog altogether.) I’m grateful they are driving and yes, it’s made me a hostage to fortune, to the behavior of “the other guy.” But that is what growing up constitutes, making your way outside the protected barrier.

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