Not Too Late to Liberate
by Rita Plush
In her 50s, my mother saved up for driving lessons from the weekly house money my father doled out, and got her license. A quiet woman, docile where my father was concerned, her license was her I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar moment of liberation. It was the first breakaway bit of independence she engineered where she didn’t ask him either for money or permission.
“Look what I got!” she trilled, waved her card like a banner at a parade that night she told him of her triumph. And the plates did shift—not dinner plates, the very earths.
“You?! Drive?!” my father cried out, as if my mother behind the wheel went against the very nature of the universe. It did. His universe. My mother behind her apron or her knitting was where he knew to find her, and wanted her to remain. Driving, she’d become a runaround, never home to have his dinner on the table when he returned from a day’s work.
And drive she did, my mother, running from the dry cleaner, to the butcher, to my house. As time passed, she braved the LIE in their big white boat of a ’63 Caddy, for an occasional journey to A & S in Manhasset. In the summer she took on the Atlantic Beach Bridge that ferried her to the Catalina Beach Club. There, under an umbrella in the sand, my mother and her friends, in their one piece bathing suits and sun-tanned pulchritude (not a dieter among them), set up their mahjong walls and let the cracks and bams fly. And she was still able to clock in on time to make my father’s meal from scratch.
Inspired by her coup, she brought her good taste and managerial skills to the bedraggled gift shop at her synagogue. She revived the shop into an enterprise that required members to make appointments to buy the religious items and Judaica giftware for sale. In her own way, my quiet mother was becoming a woman of her time.
In the 70s, when the streaking craze was at its height, she told me she’d streaked my father. Did she even know what streaking was? She’d done the run, passing my father while he was having his dinner. What she dreamed up for his dessert, one can only imagine.
Rita Plush the author of the novels, Lily Steps Out and Feminine Products, and the short story collection Alterations. She is the book reviewer for Fire Island News and teaches creative writing and memoir at Queensborough Community College Continuing Ed, Queens, New York. Her fiction and essays have been published in the Alaska Quarterly Review, The MacGufffin, The Iconoclast, Art Times and The Sun.