WHAT DRIVES YOU?
By Jo Strausz Rosen
Do you ever reminisce about childhood road trips with your family? My life in the 1960s is filled with memories of when our family would pile into our Oldsmobile to visit my mother’s relatives in the Boston suburbs on the north shore. Or we drove to Chicago to visit my father’s family, on the south side where I was born. I remember special family vacations, drives around America and even leaving our country at times for visits to Canada. We drove all the way through the Western Provinces to Banff and Lake Louise, stopping in Calgary to participate in the famous Stampede. We returned via the states, through the Rockies, stayed in little motels and cabins, and sometimes in what I used to refer to as ‘fancy’ hotels – Holiday Inns – with themed restaurant dining rooms that served adult food with Shirley Temples for me. I recall with delight the times we put quarters in the Magic Fingers device that was mounted onto the beds, and that single quarter bought 15 minutes of “tingling relaxation and ease,” according to its label. Giggling… that’s what I remember.
In the morning it felt so special to be served all-we-could-eat pancakes for breakfast in a lovely dining room. Then, after a nice walk, to purchase knickknacks, my brother and I would assume our assigned seats in the back for the road ahead. During our road trips, my father would drive, and my mother would navigate using the AAA Triptik. My dad always had a compass attached to the dashboard of his car and if by chance we did veer off the path, he would steer us back onto the right roads by stopping into shops or diners to ask directions. We would find lunch or dinner at charming roadside stands and restaurants followed by ice cream at any number of Frosty, Freezy, and Tastee-type places.
In the car, my brother and I would read books we checked out of the West Bloomfield library (I remember Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys). Or I would fill in crossword puzzles and play with those magnetic games where you place the shavings on the bald man’s head. My mother loved word games and we played GHOST and Geography and I Spy. My father would quiz us on our mathematical aptitude, and he sang songs from his army days like “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” They were happy times. Sometimes when I was quite small (long before the days of seat belts) I would curl up under my mother’s feet in the passenger seat, allowing my tall older brother to stretch out in the back seat alone. Before air conditioning, we would stick our sweaty feet out the open windows.
These memories were triggered by reading What Drives You? by author, Ellen Yashinsky Chute, former Director of Behavioral Health Services and Chief Community Outreach Officer at Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit, where she served for 24 years. She was the Founder and former Director of JCADA, the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, and was honored with the prestigious Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Award for Outstanding Professional Service in 2010.
Ellen recently penned this informative workbook about family dynamics and how these shape us into the people we are today.
From the back cover, “Picture yourself as a child on a road trip with your family. In your family car, were you the funny one, the smart one, the troublemaker, the peacemaker? Chute explores how our families shape our roles and our relationships. Learn how your brain developed, how your family dynamics determined your worldview, and how the identity you formed in your family drives you as an adult. This 180-page book will illuminate how families work while leading you on an eye-opening journey designed to help you understand, accept, and appreciate the unique person you have become. Chute shows that while our childhood identities still drive us as adults, we can learn to turn the wheel in a new direction.”
The car metaphor helps us realize, “I was trained to think and behave like that in childhood, but I don’t have to do that anymore as an adult.”
Meer residents are fortunate to have the opportunity to write their memoirs with the help of Shari Cohen’s Creative Writing Class. This former Jewish News writer continues to encourage our JSL residents to find the memories of the good ol’ days. And to face head-on the challenges of some of the more difficult times in their lives by writing them down for posterity and to pass along to the next generations of interested family members.