She and my dad married in 1938. She was 30 and was considered teetering on the edge of old maidhood.
They moved to Detroit and rented an apartment. She didn’t need to drive, she said. My dad’s car took him to and from work in downtown Detroit five days a week. My mother stayed home where she cleaned and washed and ironed and cooked. She walked to the local market every afternoon to shop for ingredients for their evening meal. Household chores were divvied up in a rather rigid unfair manner in the 1940s. He worked outside their home. She took care of their apartment and later on, their house. That meant cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking, and eventually, child care.
I was born. They bought a house.
I rode a bus to and from school. When I was in second grade, I wanted to be a Brownie, which meant I had to stay after school for an hour or two. The bus was long gone. I needed a ride home.
My mother broke down and learned to drive.
My dad started teaching her, but I remember the project quickly deteriorated into arguments, nitpicking, audible sighing, eye-rolling, and eventually, bouts of self-rightous sulking and long periods of stony silence.
She eventually took driving lessons from a professional, passed with flying colors and obtained a driver’s license.
But she was never comfortable with left turns or parallel parking.
In the 1940s, most couples had one car. Father drove it to work four days a week. Once day each week he took the bus or got a ride from a friend so Mother could do her weekly errands.
My mother did the grocery shopping, went to the cleaners, the drug store, the hardware store, the department store and the library, scheduled doctor and dentist appointments, had lunch with her friends – everything – all in one exhausting day.
Ever the pragmatist, my mother solved the left turn phobia by mapping a route to the places she needed to go – by only making right turns.
On her day with the car, my father would back it out of our driveway and park it on the street before he left for work. My mother drove the six or seven blocks to the grocery store in a preplanned circlular route – going one block too far so she could make a right turn into the parking lot. She had a favorite parking slot that was easy to pull into. If her choice slot was not available, she went home (again, only right turns) and went back to the store later.
We always had food in the house. As far as I know, my mother never had an accident, not even a fender-bender. And I had a ride home from my Thursday afternoon Brownie meeting.