As the last sultry days of summer loom, and I am headed toward my fortieth year high school class reunion in the next few weeks, I can’t help but reminisce about those last summers toward the end of high school and the beginning of the real world. I think, if you are lucky, everyone has at least one special summer in your young adult life that you look back on with fondness… and quite possibly a tiny bit of longing. That one summer for me conjures up memories of driving around in borrowed vehicles, (yes, legally) especially a little, beat-up, red, short-bed pickup truck.
The progression “to” that summer and to the little red truck was a slow process, and not exactly one I was all that thrilled about. I was never that excited about driving in the first place. My parents car, when I was learning to drive, was a silver/blue Pontiac with a front hood that was three car lengths long (it seemed like!) I was always anxious driving that car and felt like the front of it was a big blue barge that was going to take me places that I did not want to go.
My mom did not attempt to take me on “driving lesson” excursions. My dad, bless his heart, did go once… once. In that fateful voyage, I did manage to get the “big blue barge” over the scary bridge. That in itself was a feat. Once we were on the other side of the bridge, I thought I had it whipped! I am not certain that my dad felt the same way. You see, to get from our little bottom to the main highway you had to go up this little hill that connected to the highway.
The problem there was that when you got to the top of the hill, there was not a lot of real estate for getting onto the highway. That was even more anxious for me than the scary bridge, because I was on a blind hill and could not see oncoming traffic until I was already in the road. I just knew that big blue barge was sticking out into the road a lot farther than I felt comfortable with. I was not coordinated enough to drive, hold it at the top of that hill and look for oncoming traffic all at the same time. So I cocked a right turn and punched the accelerator. Let’s just say that I peeled rubber way, way (waayyyy) up the highway. To give my dad credit, he did not yell at me, although, he did have a death grip on the dashboard and the handle of the door. I think he thought if he kept his hand on the door handle that he could jump out easier if it became necessary.
We will leave it at, “the person that taught me to drive was Mr. Stepp, in driver’s education class!” Now that is probably a story all it’s own!
The next vehicle that I got to wrestle with, was a little brown Mazda. I was doing some babysitting for friends. She left her little brown car for me to drive in case we needed to go anywhere. As appreciative as I was of this mode of transportation, I have to say that this car was definitely not cooperative. It had a gas pedal that that was not even made like a normal gas petal and refused to be pressed in a normal manner of how you are supposed to press a gas pedal. To press this gas pedal, I had to get my foot up, in just the right position, above the gas pedal, and push down hard while at the same time making sure that I did not push too hard, or it could possibly shoot uncontrollably from the parking lot across the road into the field across from their house… one time anyhow. (I sort of think we may have to consider this a confession.) The little boy that I was babysitting for would always tell me that I was driving too slow. I told him I was driving as fast as I was going to drive. And he told me that I drove like a mamaw, and he would try to press down on my knee to make me drive faster. That’s okay I got us where we need to go.
Then there is the “mountain adventure” with the big blue barge. We were visiting back over in the area where I’d grown up. This area was pretty mountainous. To get to town we had to drive over two very steep and curvy mountains. During this time, the tops of both of these mountains were being taken down for progress. The curves were being taken out and straighter less steep roads were being built.
On this particular trip to town, I had in the car with me a friend, who was not old enough to drive yet, and her younger sister. We had traversed all of the construction obstacles getting over the first mountain. We got toward the bottom of that one, which was a huge horseshoe curve, and somehow I ran over a tree limb (or tree trunk) or something. The car started making this horrible noise and just would not go. I managed to get pulled over to the side of the road. There we sat in the middle of nowhere between the two mountains. This was, of course, before the age of cell phones so we were truly stuck.
We had been sitting there for a few minutes, when this snazzy looking, shiny Corvette pulled in behind us. Two rather untrustworthy looking fellas climbed out of this Corvette and came to each side of the (locked door, cracked) windows. They really did not bother to try and see what the problem was with the car. They took one look in the back seat and their solution to this problem was for us to let them take my friend’s younger sister with them as they went to get help. Like that was really going to happen! We did send them on their way not even happy that they had stopped, especially, really not happy that they had stopped!
The only positive thing from that encounter is the hilarious memory that the three of us have of those two clowns. When they each came to either side of the car, the first thing they did was ask us what our names were. The first thing that came out of my mouth was Peggy, Patty and Polly. So to this day, that is what we call each other when we are all together!
So my driving experiences had been the big blue barge and the maniacal Mazda up to this point. Somehow, someway, in the middle of June in that “one special summer,” before we moved away for good, a friend of mine’s dad turned us loose in his red, short bed pickup truck. I had never been comfortable driving the big blue barge and I had been terrified driving the little Mazda; but now the red pickup truck, it fit me quite well. It set up a little higher. It was not very big. It was easy to drive. And, dang, it was just fun.
I think it is the most fun I have ever had driving a vehicle. The times were carefree and we were driving toward the future that summer. My friend and I were all over in that little red truck. Once we were turned loose in it, we found multiple reasons to head out. Any time anyone needed something from the store, we were there. We were at the pool quite frequently. We were traversing those two mountains to town numerous times. I was not afraid of those road construction goblins in the little red truck. We would go across the other mountain closer to us to get pizza as often as we could. (You know that it did not have anything to do with the cute guy that lived close to the pizza place that I had crushed on for a couple of years! … well, maybe a little bit.) We definitely kept the roads hot and had so much fun within that special summer that led me into the rest of my life.
For the most part, I have been away from there for over forty years now. Talking about, thinking about and making plans for our class reunion has stirred up a lot of memories and has gotten us in touch with some that we have not talked to in years. Some of them I probably have not seen since I left there after my junior year of high school. But these are the same “kids” that I went from kindergarten through that junior year of high school with. They are special memories, pieces of my heart, in various shapes and sizes, especially those that traveled the road with us from grade school and onward. Just looking at pictures of each of them brings back specific memories and my heart cannot wait to get to see them, all of them, and give them all hugs and catch up on where the journeys of their lives have taken them.
I sort of wish I was driving there in a red pick up truck. Actually, I just wish I was “driving” there period. The very hardest part of this whole vision loss has been losing the ability to drive. Ouch! Independence pretty much gone. At this late date, my ride and my backup ride are both not available. So, for me right now, it is a quest to just get there, and if I can not get there my heart will be broken. I am optimistic. I am a pretty-spoiled princess of my Father. He seems to make available to me the things that really matter in life… and this — really matters.
Hoping to see everyone there!
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:4-5 ~ NKJV)