Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Day Salute to Someone Who's Earned It

This is a day to honor our mothers, and while I celebrate my own mother and one living grandmother (who at 90 continues to cheer on the Mets and win big at bridge), my indefatigable sister Jennifer and sister-in-law Colin, my friends with children they've produced and children they've lovingly adopted, and those who may be childless but still unparalleled nurturers, I also want to make special mention of a woman from this block.

In 1971, Lillian Braun was the first woman hired to give drivers' tests for the State of Illinois. She retired last year at 85, and almost every morning, she walks down the 13 steps in front of the drab three-flat where she lives, gets in her car, and drives away. It's unclear where she goes, only that she goes -- undeterred by age, and always dressed pertly with her auburn hair done and make-up just so.

Now if you know me, you know I'm not much of a car person. And I'll admit the thought of an 86-year-old woman behind the wheel, particularly a woman I once saw take a spill on the sidewalk, doesn't fill me with rapture. But I also understand that for Lillian, the automobile is the ultimate sign of independence. It provided her a job and a livelihood, and now, in her ninth decade of life, it provides her continued mobility. After administering license tests for 38 years, she's earned the right to jangle those keys.

John and I walked by her house yesterday, and there she was in the doorway, smiling earnestly despite the rain. "Happy Mother's Day!" she shouted across the lawn. Happy Mother's Day to you, Lillian. I saw you driving off again this morning before the rest of the block was even awake. Hope you're headed someplace special, or at least enjoying the road.

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