When most women in her neighborhood didn't have their driver's licenses, she learned the rules of the road.
When I was growing up in New Jersey back in the '60s, none of the moms on my block had a driver's license. My mom was the first, and I still remember the day she drove solo.
I never saw the driving thing coming. It hit me head-on one day when my father got into the passenger side of our 1962 Chevy Nova. Then, a few moments later, my mother followed and slipped smoothly into the driver's seat.
A crowd of my friends quickly gathered, and I was in the vanguard. "Your mom's gonna drive?" asked Jimmy Briguglio, incredulously, as if she were volunteering for astronaut duty.
"Well, I guess so," was all I managed to say.
My dad rolled down his window and called out to me. "We'll be back in a bit." I raised my hand and waved goodbye, weakly. The car putt-putted out of the driveway and slowly moved off down the street. A few moments later it turned the corner and was gone.
My friends and I struck up a game of stickball, but my heart wasn't in it. I was distracted by what I had just witnessed. Why would my mother want to drive a car?
That night I learned the story. Every detail came up through the heating vent into my bedroom, as if my parents' conversation down in the kitchen were being broadcast. My family's economic circumstances had necessitated my mom's taking up part-time work. Money was tight (I heard my mother say, "Butter has gone up to 54 cents a tub. That's outrageous!") and something had to give. In the steadily expanding economy of the '60s, work was not hard to come by and my mother had resurrected her secretarial skills to land a job at a travel agency in Jersey City.