by Oreen Scott
A short piece from my memoir, which is a work in progress.
|I was living in Winnipeg, but night after night the same dream would wake me up. In my nightmare I still live in the house on Royal Oak, trapped with no way out. During the dream I was panicked, when I awoke I’d feel as if the nightmare would come true.
“You’re as useless as the hind tit on a cow, “ my father would say. I never knew exactly what that meant, but I caught the sentiment. “As long as you keep your feet under your old man’s table you’ll be alright.”
I needed to get rid of the nightmare. It was a dark and rainy night when I flew into the Vancouver airport. I rented a car and drove to the house on Royal Oak, stopped the car and stared, at the house that no longer belonged to anyone I knew.
“There it is. You don’t live there anymore. You’re not trapped. You can drive away. Go ahead, drive away,” and I drove away, leaving the nightmare behind.
There was truth in the nightmare. When I was twenty-one I lived with my parents on Royal Oak, to get anywhere someone had to drive me, or I walked. Rainy Vancouver weather seldom made the long walk up either of the two steep hills pleasant.
I had a job as a bank teller, one the worst jobs I could have chosen. But then again, I felt I was lucky anyone would hire a useless tit like me.
The bank was at the top of the steepest hill, with no bus service I walked down the hill every night after work. My father would drive me in the mornings.
Why didn’t I have a driver’s license?
“Women aren’t mechanically inclined.” my father would say, and my mother would agree and both or them would repeat this mantra whenever it seemed appropriate to do so.
My father told countless stories of women drivers, How they shouldn’t be on the road. At the same time he took great pride in what he believed was his exceptional ability, both as a mechanic and as a driver. He was part owner in stock cars, two that I remember were “The Pink Lady” and “The Head Hunter.” He never raced, but kept the cars in running order. He and a group of his buddies got together and formed a consortium. They built the Cloverdale Stock Car Racing track. Vehicles were his hobby, and his work. He was doing what he wanted to do.
My mother didn’t drive. And she couldn’t go anywhere unless my father drove her. When I was about eight years old she did something that I now know was very courageous. She managed to get a driver’s license.
She drove a big red convertible, and on hot sunny summer days, while my father worked, we’d go on picnics and to the beach. She invited neighbor women and their children to join us.
She drove for only four years then stopped driving. My father would constantly tell anyone who would listen, “Esther doesn’t like driving, she’s very nervous. Doesn’t take her eyes off the road. Drives with both hands on the steering wheel at all times.” She was a careful driver who practiced good driving habits. But his belittling eventually wore her down and she gave up driving, and the little bit of freedom and independence she had managed to ever so briefly find for herself.
When I was around twelve my father built a go cart for my brother. The motor was loud, the steering rough, but it worked.
I was allowed to drive the go cart. When I got behind the wheel I could hear a loud booming voice in my head, far stronger than a real voice because it was the voice of indoctrination. “Women can’t drive, women can’t drive Women can’t drive.” I couldn’t think.
I almost hit a tree, I almost hit the living room picture window. I was frozen by a sense that I couldn’t do anything right.
My father would tell the story over and over about how he couldn’t believe how I just couldn’t steer the go cart. How he had never seen anything so stupid.
When I was sixteen I wanted to learn to drive. Why not? All my friends were getting their driver’s license, and I craved the freedom a driver’s license would give me.
Because I didn’t work I didn’t have the money for driving lessons. My father thought he could teach me to drive. We’d go out for a lesson, and he’d spend the whole time telling me I couldn’t learn how to drive. For a long while I sort of believed him. When I was twenty-seven I got a driver’s license. By that time I could pay for driving instructions, and I didn’t have any trouble passing the driver’s test, with a perfect score.