Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Mother and Cars

Maybe a car my mother drove?
Don't confuse the title of this post with "My Mother the Car", which was an entertaining television series starring Jerry Van Dyke (notwithstanding what later critics had to say about it).  For Mother's Day, I wanted to share the saga of my mother's love-hate relationship with cars.  Maybe it was because she grew up in major urban centers where it was not common for everyone to have a car, but my mother and cars didn't always seem to get along.

The reason my parents met is because she was in a car that broke down.  I don't know if it was my mother's car or her best friend's.  The story is that they were going to a party and the car broke down.  My mother was fretting that they'd miss the party, but her friend said, "Don't worry, I'll call my uncle.  He can fix it."  It turns out my mother's best friend was my father's niece (so she's my first cousin).  I never heard if he fixed the car, but my parents married soon after.

When I was very young, my family lived in Southern California, where cars were a necessity.  While it was possible to get around without one, it took forever to do so.  I can't imagine my mother trying to go by bus with three small children; she didn't have the patience.  She had a horrible sense of direction, however, and got lost all the time.  The amazing thing is that my brother, who was not quite 8 years old when we left California, was often the one who gave her directions to get home again.  (And just to prove that it wasn't something about driving in Los Angeles that caused her to lose her sense of direction, she even managed to get lost in Niceville, Florida, which is about as small as it sounds.)

Another memorable car breakdown my mother experienced was on the Grapevine, the twisty, turny highway that goes through the Tehachapi Mountains and is the connection between the San Joaquin Valley and the Los Angeles area.  Apparently she and a friend (not my cousin) were driving from Los Angeles to Modesto to a party (yup, another one).  The car broke down on the Grapevine.  Rather than miss their party, my mother and her friend left the car where it was, headed to Modesto some other way, and left it to my father to retrieve the car.

Through all of this my mother had been driving automatics.  When my family moved to Australia, however, my father told her that she was going to have to learn to drive a stick, because there just weren't that many automatics in Australia, and they were extremely expensive.  So it was drive a stick, rely on public transportation, or stay at home.  That was enough to motivate my mother, but she was never great with a stick.  She definitely believed in the phrase, "If you can't find 'em, grind 'em."  (Unfortunately, I think she taught my brother to drive, and for several years he ground gears with the best of them.)

To some degree my mother recognized her limitations, and sometimes she chose not to push it.  When we were living in Florida, she had taken my siblings and me to a theme park (sorry, don't remember which one), and on the way home we experienced one of those lovely heavy Florida thunderstorms, where it's almost white-out conditions.  Rather than try to drive through the storm, my mom pulled over to the side of the highway, and we waited it out.

Perhaps the most eye-catching thing my mother did with a car was the time she hit a deer.  I don't know how common it is, but she rolled the car.  Luckily, she was fine.  My stepfather told me he drove past the rolled car on the other side of the highway and didn't realize my mother was in it.

At least she wasn't hit by lightning in a car.  That happened to her twice while she was on the phone.

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