My mom always visits my shop. She putters around and gets in my way. She talks politics to my customers and tries to tell my employees what a hard teenager I was. She is sometimes difficult for me, but I don’t let her know. She’s my mom. I need to take care of her.
Mom has lived long enough to need me to drive for her. This is quite the role reversal. When I was a child, she got my siblings and me where we needed and wanted to go. Doctors’ appointments, sleep overs, softball games, emergency rooms, drive in movies… Mom always drove.
I remember times when she would load my brother, sister and me – as well as our three cousins, my aunt and a couple of dogs – in the old station wagon. We would sit anywhere and everywhere –the long front bench seat, back seat, wagon area and wheel well. There were no seatbelts and no car seats, and there was no calling shotgun. You sat on any surface you could find. Part of the thrill was seeing how many of us could pile into the old beast and still arrive safely.
I borrowed mom’s car to take my driver’s test. It took me three times to pass. I was not a good driver, but I was persistent. I don’t know if by the third time I had improved or if the instructor just got tired of seeing me cry. At almost 18, I finally got my license and my independence. I bought an old Ford Maverick and drove it as long as it would go without oil. No one ever told me to check it, so I didn’t. I blew the engine on the way to my job at McDonald’s. It was fun while it was mine.
There have been many cars since, each of them special in their own way. These days I have a fun little red car that zips me around town. My children are grown, and I am at a point in my life where I can buy the car I want, rather than one that makes sense. I drive a stick because I like the way it feels to shift gears. I take the back roads whenever I can because back roads are more fun.
But the most special car has been one I never owned. It is the stuff of legend – the classic Ford Mustang. The Mustang is the king (or queen, as in Steve McQueen) of cool – the car that all others have been compared to.
My father had a gold and black one when I was a small child. I loved how it sounded like an animal with its engine idling. My brother bought one that had a tree growing out of its trunk. He has been restoring it with his son for years. My son bought a new one and let me drive it once. It was thrilling, but also a little intimidating. I certainly don’t want to break my son’s new car.
Recently, a friend of mine pulled up to the shop in her 1967 Ford Mustang convertible. It was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. I could not stop looking at it through the window. It spoke to me. My friend offered to let me drive it, but I declined. I couldn’t imagine driving my dream car.
As the day went on, I kept gazing at it. Mom was in the shop that day. The thought occurred to me that my mom might like to go for a drive – not an errand or appointment – just a drive. I asked her if she might want to take a drive in the mustang. Her eyes lit up like she was young again, and she jumped out of her chair with a spirit of enthusiasm I had not seen in a very long time. She remembered my dad’s car from when it was new.
The engine roared to life as I hoped it would. Mom became giddy and began to talk about all the fun she would have driving this car around town. She even suggested getting a boyfriend to drive around with in it. I drove down to the causeway and opened it up. Mom put her hand in the air and pumped her fists while I beeped the horn. We had one of the best rides of our lives. No doctors’ appointments, no grocery stores, no errands. Just two women feeling the thrill of a beautiful ride on a beautiful day. Thank you, Sam.