Henrietta, Texas, 1951: My mother was very proud of the brand new car. Pale green with a long hood, with comfortable seats, a heater, and a radio! She couldn’t wait to take us on a trip.
“Hop in the car, and away we’ll go! Hop in the car, and away we’ll go!” she sang, to the tune of the William Tell Overture, which I knew from the radio as the Lone Ranger song. “And a-waaaay we’ll go!”
In celebration, we drove to Denton to visit Aunt Rosemary and Uncle Esty, and cousins Bob and Dan. It was very grand.
I was a child, so I didn’t realize then how happy this made her. Even growing up, it was nothing to ever consider. Only now, realizing that this was the first car she’d owned, it’s obvious, looking back, that this was a big day.
I can see the car now, parked in front of our house. The lawn, the sidewalk, and then a row of Bois d’Arc trees along the curb. The pale green Bois d’Arc apples lying in the grass, and the pale green car, so new, so modern. In my mother’s eyes, in that moment, we had arrived!
She drove with skill, and sang me songs. I had Cracker Jacks for the trip. I looked out the windows. It took a long time. I grew restive. Then we were there.
When I learned to read, I tried to read along the way. I read most of Old Yeller in this way. It always made me carsick, and my mother, the nurse, always had dramamine to quell it.
On my trip to Houston on an airplane, my mother drove the green car down to meet me. We dined that night in a restaurant, with my father, upon lobster and butter. It was a long drive back from Houston.
We took a vacation. I don’t know where we went, but we saw the Ozark mountains. We drove and drove and drove. We stayed in a small motel on the outskirts of a great city. My mother complained about the cost; she felt cheated. In the morning my mother packed the little bars of soap. Then she packed all the motel towels into the suitcase! I was scandalized. She looked at me sternly.
“They expect you to take them,” she said. I couldn’t understand it then, but I understand now. She was stealing their towels. Isn’t that outrageous? And lying to her child as well! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! You go, girl!
Later, she drove me to summer camp in this car, and when I was homesick, she came to fetch me in this car. Years later, after she’d married Doctor Strickland, they traded the Chevrolet on a blue DeSoto, and I in turn purchased the same car back from the dealer for $300. I think they arranged the whole thing.
I got a different muffler so that it would make more noise, then ran into another car and had to replace the bent-up hood with a dark green one, and with my dog Bullet drove noisily and two-toned around the town and countryside. I wish I still had that Chevrolet. I didn’t know at the time, but it had class.