I recently had the occasion to be in a hired car with my 85-year-old mother heading to a funeral. The driver was a nice 50-something blue-collar, early retiree.
Like us he was Italian-American. Quite a pleasant conversationalist. And most importantly, a relaxed driver amidst the insanity that is the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike.
The next day, I was still at Mom’s house, and she heard me telling a friend on the phone that the driver thing had worked out nicely.
“When we first got in the car, I was going to tell you to see if he was wearing a wedding ring,” Mom said with a smile.
“No, not for me,” I responded, shaking my head.
“Oh, that’s right, you need a professor,” Mom said.
I’m not sharing this to rip on my mother. If anyone tries, I’ll be up in their grill in a minute flat.
I’m also not sharing it because I object to her trying to find her single 60-year-old daughter a good guy. I understand she loves me and wants me to experience the treasure of a solid life partner.
So why am I sharing this exchange?
Because at a time when citizens in our divided nation — and in this case, specifically, New Jersey — are trying to navigate safe, productive, and (hopefully) kind communication, I want to illuminate one of the ways it’s challenging.
My mother and I have diametrically opposed politics. This has been true pretty much since the early 1990s. But like so many other families, ours has had an extraordinarily difficult time navigating the Trump years. Mom thinks he’s wonderful; I think he’s a racist, misogynist, twice-impeached criminal.
So our agreement is to stay off politics. On our week-long Jersey Shore vacation in Trump hotbed Ocean County, the TV is clear of cable news. We’re mostly good at respecting these boundaries. Even on a recent visit when we watched a PBS documentary about Rita Moreno (Mom’s idea) and it got into her activism, I stayed silent while my mother expressed her vehement disagreement.
To the people who think it’s simple to heed these boundaries, I point to the exchange at the top of this column…