Early this morning, No. 1 (whose real name is Katie) and I walked out of our hotel and said “good bye” right there on the sidewalk. Her car was parked in the garage across the street, and my BART entrance was just to the right. Katie had given me her last BART ticket with enough money on it to get me to SFO.
I only had to wait about ten minutes before the train arrived, and because this was rush hour on a work day, I squeezed into the car and settled in for the one-hour ride. “Settled” isn’t quite the right word for it, though, as I was standing shoulder to shoulder with humanity, coffee cup in one hand and passenger strap in the other.
A mother had somehow managed to set up a makeshift work station in order to put ponytails in her little girl’s hair; and a young man said to all of us, “May I have your attention, please? Heaven and Hell are very real,” And he proceeded to explain why he believes this to be true and what affect this has, or should have, on our lives. These were my traveling conditions.
I have learned how to get myself from downtown Berkeley to the airport, how to buy a ticket if my daughter hasn’t given me one, where to change trains—on the Freemont line, it’s at MacArthur—and how to get from the last stop to my gate.
I have learned to do this comfortably, in fact, without fear of being lost or fear of being accosted in any form. And I take a certain amount of pride in this small accomplishment. To most people, being proud of learning a train route may seem ridiculous, like saying at nearly the age of 50, “I am proud I know how to tie my shoes.” But given my history, I’ll take any demonstration of my ability to function in society as an accomplishment.
I grew up in a house with parents who took care of me into my twenties. Then, I married young to a man who, although he isn’t overbearing, does the driving, if you know what I mean. And when you’re a passenger long enough, staring out the window at the passing scenery, it’s easy to forget you have the ability to take the wheel. It’s easy to relinquish even the smallest tasks so that all you have to do is thoughtlessly get in line or take your seat.
Katie and I talked about so many things during our few days together in Berkeley. One of our subjects was whether or not I regretted not having a college degree. That used to eat at me until most of my dreams, or nightmares, involved my trying to get back into school. But I eventually realized I am a highly capable person without a degree, and that I can accomplish most things I put my mind to regardless of my level of education. Katie said she thinks that’s true of me, and I was relieved to know she sees her mother as a capable person, despite my being in the passenger seat so often during her childhood.
Husband used to tell me that his marrying me was a rescue operation, and that if he hadn’t stepped in, I would have either been left to live with my parents or become a bag lady living under a bridge along Lake Shore Drive—we were Chicago children. He was kidding, I’m pretty sure, but his joke put the thought into the head of an already insecure and untested girl, and I have spent years breaking the paralyzing bands of my insecurities and testing the limits of my abilities.
So, now do you see why even being able to get from point A to point B can make me proud? It’s a simple test. It’s further proof. It’s a sign I can take the wheel when called upon, and I can successfully steer clear of pot holes and road blocks and even a life spent under a bridge.