Back in February 2010, I wrote a post called The Freedom of Wheels, in which I explored what having a car and a bicycle means to me. I have often been aware of how much freedom wheels give me, even though I don’t actually enjoy driving a car all that much. I much preferred using the public transportation system in Germany, when I was there for five months. But, alas, in this country, most of us do not have this option.
As I was writing my talk for the upcoming appearance at the Sunderland Library (this Wednesday instead of last Wednesday because of the storm that buried us), I unearthed something that I hadn’t ever really seen quite this way. It has to do with the lack of freedom I had when I was a single woman living in my original community, because I did not have wheels.
It was customary for Amish parents to provide their teen sons with a horse and buggy. I resented being dependent on the men for horse and buggy rides. One day I said to my mother that this wasn’t fair, the girls didn’t get a horse and buggy. She retorted that girls are more expensive, because the parents have to pay for their weddings. I knew even then that women got a raw deal… the men were handed their independence, while the women were forced to be dependent on men their whole lives long.
The times it really mattered that I didn’t have transportation is getting to and from youth gatherings. And my family lived on the far outreaches of the community, so it wasn’t like I could even beg a ride home with a neighbor boy. I used to have to pay for a taxi to take me to the singing, and then I had to decide whether to schedule a ride home with this taxi or not. If I did, and then got a ride home with a date, I would have to call off the taxi. If I didn’t, and then no one asked me for a date, I could get stranded. I remember that happening to my sister and me one summer night when the gathering was perhaps eight miles away. We tried calling several taxis in the middle of the night, but got no answer. So we walked home. That was the longest walk of my life. Riding in a buggy would have been a luxury that night.