Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.
Prompt #6: What kind of car did your family drive? What played on the radio? Where did you sit? Take us on a road trip.
Cadillacs. Long and wide and colorful. Ashtrays, shiny knobs and manual windows. My mom didn’t drive and didn’t get out much unless we were headed out for a special occasion; so time in the car was always just about me and my abuelo who is everything to me. Early on, I sat by myself in the back while my grandpa drove. I have clear images of peering over the shoulders of the front seats and watching his profile as he stared out at the road ahead. I couldn’t wait to sit up front but, really, I didn’t care as long as we were together and driving.
I remember one night coming home from a party and every seat in the Cady was full. I was exhausted. I road home lying down across the laps of my mom and grandma in the back seat. I fell asleep watching the night sky speed by.
I remember on sunny days lying down in the backseat and watching the electrical wires. I’d follow them to see how long before they branched off to another block. The black wires against blue skies and white clouds made me smile.
I felt bad ass when I finally moved up to the front seat. I don’t remember what played on the radio when my grandpa drove but, bless his heart, he gave me full control once I got to sit up front. He never complained. Ever. Even when I belted out Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” and I could tell by the look on his face he thought it was completely inappropriate.
We could drive forever, him and I. He was a jeweler and did repairs for a number of jewelry stores in New Jersey and New York. He had designated days to visit each of them and I always felt honored to tag along. He was a peaceful city driver who only used his horn when absolutely necessary; so more than someone in the suburbs and less than I’m inclined to now. No road rage for him. He’d call out a bad driver here and there but mainly he was just mellow.
I remember playing this game in my head where I’d try to predict where the cars around us would go. It was so easy to tell how the cars would move. I thought I was psychic.
I remember whenever we came to sudden stops, his arm would instinctively reach out to protect me. When the groceries are in the front seat now and I stop suddenly, I do the same thing.
We got into two car accidents. Luckily, they were small-ish and happened when I was older. The first time we got side swiped into a corner store front. My grandfather flew across our giant van (we were way beyond the Cady days at this point) and into the corner of the windshield in front of me. C+C Music Factory was playing “Everybody Dance Now’. He wasn’t seriously injured. I wore a neck brace for about a month after. The other time wasn’t actually an accident; we didn’t hit anything. But it left me so jittery and shaken, it’s worth mentioning. We were headed uphill on a rainy day and, for no reason I can think of, our car did a 180 and we crossed over into the other lane. My window, my face were just inches from a metal street divider. All I remember is reaching out to change the station and my hand shaking.
Thankfully, neither scarred me and I still have a big heart for the open road.
Besides my grandfather, I spent a ton of time driving around with my godmother. She was my godmother, the hip mom I never had, the cool older sister I never had and just embodied everything I wanted to be when I got older. So spending time with her was also pretty amazing for me as a kid. My favorite of her cars was the Jeep Wrangler and her little convertible. The former because I geeked out every time we got to pull over and take the top off. The latter because she trusted me enough to let me drive it shortly after getting my license. Oh and putting the top down. Clearly I was a fan of the open air.
What stays alive for me from driving around with her is the music. Gloria Estafan. Sting. Inner Circle. I did not have control of her radio and I’m glad I didn’t. I fell in love with so much music. Some of my favorite songs are ones I learned the words to while driving with her. All hail the radio.
Whether with my godmother or with my grandfather, we drove a lot. Long trips to the country or short trips into the city, a quick drive to the mall or a traffic-y jaunt for business – I loved them all. Trips to the city were my favorite, though. Driving is so much slower in the Big Apple, the perfect speed for a wide-eyed child to marvel at the skyscrapers passing by.
Funny, up until this moment I didn’t realize what a tender space the open road held for me. It’s good to remember.
Next week’s prompt: 2/23 Walk us through your bedtime routine as a kid, a teen, a college kid. Anything you still do now? Did anything keep you up at night?