“I think I’m going to have to get married since I hate driving so much,” surmised a friend of mine who stopped by to visit this past Shabbos.
She’s been divorced for a few years, and while you’d think there were many adjustments to her newly single life that would adversely affect her, one of the most challenging was her newly appointed driving responsibility.
It’s something I could wholeheartedly relate to, as a fellow adept local driver. But when someone mentions meeting in upstate New York, Monsey, Jersey, or Connecticut, I’m not your gal. And neither, it seems, is she.
I’ll never think driving cross country is fun, and I generally drive way below the speed limit. I’m pretty sure I’ll get a ticket for under-speed-limit driving one day. Did you know that was a thing?!
I think it’s the way you set things up as a newly married couple that determines who’s in the driver’s seat, for the most part.
Maybe I’m an old-fashioned kinda gal, but on long drives to destinations beyond our immediate area, my father was always the one behind the wheel.
And so, whether it would be driving back from the Cedarhurst train station or driving to Chicago, Moshe was always the driver. It definitely put a wrench in things after he made his unplanned early exit from this world.
I remember the first time I drove to an unfamiliar destination; I think that is what set the tone for my son Dovid’s future anxiety when I was the one at the wheel.
The time and place: Erev Pesach 2018. Packing up a minivan with five kids and all of our belongings proved to be quite the challenge, so Moshe had the idea to pack up both cars to give us more room in the car.
The only obvious issue was that I’d have to drive to Tarrytown, which, with Waze, didn’t really worry me. My main concern was that I had a baby in a rear-facing car seat, with Dovid there in case she cried, but at the same time, he was watching my every move on the road. It was going well until I totally missed an exit and took the wrong bridge — because I’m talented like that.
I might have let some expletives escape as the dreaded rerouting notification flashed onto my screen and I screamed over the speakerphone to Moshe that we were on the way to New Jersey instead of Westchester; I think that’s when I lost Dovid’s trust in my ability to drive forever.
I started noticing that whenever there’d be a family trip anywhere and my family would plan a meeting place, Dovid would quietly plot his escape from the backseat of my car, and all of a sudden I’d get a WhatsApp from my father telling me that three of my children would be going with him instead.
Obviously, this would hurt me because I never did anything overtly bad when it came to driving. Except for landing in the wrong destination, but really, is that so bad? I mean, I’d get there eventually, with the lovely soothing voice of the Waze lady as my guide, rerouting me as many times as needed until I’d get off at the right exit.
It would also indicate to me that my son didn’t trust me the way he trusted his father. The way you put your trust in someone when the car is quiet and it’s been a long day and you drift off to sleep as someone else is behind the wheel, taking you to where you need to go.
That type of belief in someone else’s ability, the comfort of knowing that they’ll take care of you, whether it’s in driving or in any other aspect of life. So it’s a frustration of mine and, honestly, not one I have the energy to change all that quickly.
I know who I am, I know what my strengths are, and I can tell you with certainty that driving isn’t in the top five. Or ten. Or anywhere on a list of things I enjoy doing.
I do it because I have to, along with a bunch of other things I never thought I’d have to do. And it’s not empowering to me. It’s sad and it reminds me every time I get in that driver’s seat that I’m alone. I’m the driver, I’m the sole caretaker. I’m the one they rely on to get them where they need to be.
Maybe a goal of mine should be spying in the rearview mirror on a quiet day as I drive way below the speed limit, seeing my children’s eyelids flutter and gently close as they drift off to sleep.
Maybe then I’ll know that that trust is finally being earned. And maybe I want that same thing for myself. I want to trust and be trusted. I’m working on both. I can still see Moshe in my rearview mirror. The kids are in the back seats, and the immediate vista up ahead through the windshield.
I keep my eyes on the road, knowing too well that I can’t see beyond the bend. But I’m looking — looking for myself, for my G-d, for my future. I know that no matter how carefully I negotiate the turns, there are no guarantees.
I glance out the window, take in the view along the route. The trees explode in magnificent color as they shed their leaves, preparing for the new season ahead. There is both sadness and beauty in change. I grip the wheel, but I know I’m only partially in the driver’s seat.
Yes, I’m sharing my drive and its loneliness, but it’s better than driving alone (inspired by Billy Joel, a fellow Long Island Jew). The driving is symbolic for so much more than getting from one destination to another. We’re lacking in some good drivers lately. Drivers wanted.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.