Friday, August 14, 2009

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

If you have ever ridden in the hatchback of a 1979 Chevrolet Chevette you must have been small, and you must have been me. What I remember clearly is someone having a great idea, the kind of idea that takes you places. This is an idea so wonderful it will get all your friends and your kid sister exactly where you want to go, in one teeny, tiny little car--the kid rides in the trunk.

Hey, why not? She's small, right? She'll fit. It'll be fun. Besides, it's a hatchback. I think it was fun, at least at first. Until the trunk closed and I was again in the fetal position, though this time, not wrapped safely and soundly in amniotic fluid. This time I got to see outside my little metal womb. I should have, the glass was practically pressed against my face.

And I was privy to all the action up front--adult talk, cigarettes out the window, a beautiful spring day. It was nothing to me, the going with a big sis and hangin' out with her and her friends. I loved it. Someone would take me to the laundromat and I'd plunk in the coins. At the gas station, I'd happily run in and pay. Trunk-riding was a new game. I rarely complained.

The radio was on and the car was filled with hair and chevron mustaches. We were going to my sister's flat on Cherry St. I spent my fair share of nights there gorging on ice cream and chocolate milk. Her boyfriend taught me how to play backgammon and he probably let me win half the time. It was a happinin' place.

One night, later on, when I was a little older (though not old enough by my current standards) I was spending the night on Cherry St. when the boyfriend called. Did she want to go out? Yes, but her little sister was over. She's old enough to stay by herself. Hmmm. Tempting.

Did I think I could stay by myself? She would call to check up on me. I could eat anything I found in the fridge, watch anything on TV, stay up and have a party. By my self.

In a strange apartment.

Sure, sure. I was fine, would be fine. Terrified. For hours on end. MTV was great. I couldn't watch that at home (I loved Cindy Lauper). There was a window in the kitchen near the refrigerator. Outside that window was a tree with branches scratching and scraping in the wind. Terrified. Awake. Awake. Waiting for the phone.

Was I alright? Of course, fine, fine. She'd be home in a few hours. The ice cream went back in the freezer half eaten, waiting for breakfast.


  1. My mother had a hatchback too! I LOVED that car! Everyone in town identified us with that car and I happily borrowed it from my mom (minus good brakes and power steering fluid) whenever I could.

    I'd anything for that hatchback now...

  2. I can't wait to get my sister's photo to post. Ah, the memories.