My mother was like a 16 year old boy. She thought about learning how to drive for decades. But with a possessive husband at home and little money in the bank, learning how to drive was just a pipe dream. Anyways, she thought, she could walk everywhere.
That’s what I learned to do. Walk everywhere.
I would cut through 6 lawns on the way to elementary school. No one cared. All the kids did it. No adult complained. There weren’t fences to keep us out (or in.)
We were free to roam the yards at night and play kick-the-can in the street in the evening.
But for my mother, it was a different story.
It was just before my 10th birthday and my dad still wasn’t home. This was way before cell phones or tracking systems so my mother couldn’t just ring him up and tell him to pick up milk on the way home.
When a man went to work in the morning, he was left alone all day. No wife calling. The phone was for important stuff and milk was definitely not important.
For some reason that day my mom was worried. She just knew something was off. But with no car of her own, she had no other option than to ask her neighbor for help.
Mrs Eckholm was the wild, fun neighbor who had an RV and four kids and always had a cigarette dangling. She was cool. Of course she would drive my mother downtown to search for my dad.
The adventure began benign enough.
Two women driving from bar to bar parking lots on the hunt for my dad’s brown clunker. My mother didn’t dare go into the bars. She also knew she didn’t have to. Where his car was, he would be. Find the car, find the man.
But he was no where. No brown clunker. Not in the parking lots. Not on the streets. Not around back.
As they started for home, my mother’s anxiety grew. She couldn’t go home without finding my father. She pleaded with Mrs Eckholm to please go around one more time. She just knew my dad was there somewhere.
Always up for more, Mrs Eckholm swung her car around and headed for a shortcut through the alley.
As they bounced around on the gravel road, they started going through a list of the bars again. Had they hit them all? What about that bar down by the lake?
Mrs Eckholm saw it first. My fathers brown car. Right there in the alley.
Then the screen door slammed and there he was sauntering out of a two-story house with a girl wrapped around him headed for his car. OUR CAR. The same car he took us to church in every Sunday.
My mother followed Mrs Eckholm’s gaze as she pulled the car to a dead stop.
I wished I could have seen my father’s face when he got caught red-handed making out with another woman with my mom watching from a few feet away.
That was the moment that changed everything for my mother, my sisters and me.
My mom could no longer lie to herself. She saw it. And so did Mrs Eckholm. And Mrs Eckholm would definitely not let her forget what he did that night.
I knew something was wrong (and very right) when my mother started to take driving lessons.
My mother was always spunky but bold? No. Driving at 35 was considered bold.
But she didn’t end there. Buying a car was a man’s job but that’s exactly what my mother did. Yellow, no less.
Within weeks, my mother was getting a divorce from a man she could no longer trust.
And she had her car and it became everything to her. It was her symbol of freedom.
Where she would walk, now she drove. She couldn’t wait to get behind the steering wheel and hit the gas.
No more walking with heavy laden grocery bags or toting us girls around by holding hands.
She was just like a teenage boy…in love with her car and dying to get on the road. Any road. Just out of here.
The divorce hit, the open road called and we moved out of state back to my moms hometown.
I liked to watch my mother all giddy and so proud of what she had acquired and accomplished. I was really proud of her back then too. Still am.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom.