Mom and Son Circa 1960Enlarge Photo
If you're thinking this is another warm ode from a son to his mother, think again. The usual Mother's Day story is about maternal nurturing, human closeness and world peace set in domestic locales such as kitchens. This is not one of them.
My mother and I have a distant relationship, both geographically and emotionally-abetted by the automobile. According to my mom, this gap appeared during my early childhood. She wanted to play ball. When I caught the orb, I didn't toss it back. Instead, I grabbed it and ran away. About the only way she could reach me was via the automobile; I wanted to ride.
So, mom devised a countermeasure. Her instrument was a 1967 Ford Country Sedan with three-speed manual transmission, manual steering and manual brakes. Egad, the gold-colored behemoth didn't have a radio! Nonetheless, riding with my mom was instructive and destructive. For instance, my mother drives cars as though they escaped from the state fair's midway. In her hands, they're Tilt-A-Whirls run amok.
Given the Ford's slab-like waffle-print seats, this meant fasten the seatbelts. One time she approached a fork in the road and gleefully stomped on the throttle. The resulting force tossed the preacher's kid, who was riding along, smack against the door panel. I thought this great fun until he "narced." Busted!
So if your idea of a family car is a mom-approved safety cocoon, you're not in our family car.
Any amusement ride can become a mode of cruel and unusual punishment. Remember Alfred Hitchcock's merry-go-round? Well my mother came close. She found cruising at 55 mph on a county highway the ideal velocity for the facts of life quiz-and we're not talking the TV show. What's a guy to do? I mean there must be something in the Fourth Geneva Convention banning this form of deportation and confinement. What could I say??? Quick turn left at the state's vehicle inspection facility, I think they're open late to check nocturnal emissions???? One wrong word could provoke my mom: there's not telling what avenue she'd take.
On the road, one can learn how to thwart adult authority. During one trip home from the city, which was supposed to include a side trip to McDonald's for Hot Apple Pie, I discovered that this pie was conditional. There was a stern parental request. I said no. It was one of my early victories. I won the battle, but lost the treat. Had I retorted that McDonald's wasn't nearly as good as mom's homemade pie-a verity-my smart mouth might have scored an extra bite.
Mom, however, turned our 700-mile treks to grandmother's house into excursions any car-crazy kid would dig. She'd dole out trinkets meant to delight and entertain. One of these was a Matchbox model eight, a silver oval-rear-window VW Beetle, which I still have. My brother got the Microbus. My mother engaged us in car and card games. Auto bingo was a favorite. She handed out cards with colored windows you slid over DeSoto, Packard or Nash logos. Those now defunct makes were still roving the early interstates, if you watched carefully. Then, there was Mille Bornes, a French car card game. You win, when you rack up 1000 kilometers.
Neither that game's tire punctures nor speed limits, however, were as fiendish as my mom's wicked use of the family car. Unlike the game, you cannot play a coup-fourre (counter thrust, protection card), when your mom's at the wheel.