Happy Father’s Day, Dad
I am the third of five kids. We were all born between 1959 and 1966. Needless to say my parents were very busy in those heady, changing times of the 60’s. I know they were aware of all the political and social changes but as far as tuning in, turning on, dropping out and living in the Age of Aquarius, I feel safe saying they were too busy for any of that.
My memories of growing up with a fast growing family go quite far back for a couple of reasons. We moved almost every year until I was six so can I recall all of the places I’ve lived since I was born. Of greater significance to me, there are events that fascinated me so completely that they are permanently etched into who I am. Those events, as a middle child in a pack of kids, obviously have every thing to do with my family.
This is a recollection of my father from around 1967 or 1968. I was five or six years old and we were at Cape Cod for a family vacation. In 1967 or 1968 my father was this to me:
Just so you know, my mother and her friends looked something like this:
I think my mother is the woman on the lower left but I’m sure she’d deny that.
It was a hot summer day and we were all piled into the Plymouth or Chrysler wood grained station wagon that seriously looked like this if you can imagine it at Cape Cod, full of beach towels, blankets, a cooler and a jug of ice tea, Superman, 1960’s Hair-do Mom and five unrestrained kids between age two and eight:
We were all excited to get to the beach so it may have been the first official day of vacation. Keep in mind that was probably seven thirty or eight in the morning when we struck out, slathered with sun-tan lotion (SPF minus 4) in bathing suits that were not yet permanently shaped like our bodies thanks to days of soaking in salt water.
This idea of getting to the beach before most people awoke on a vacation day is one that stuck as a fact of life until high school. Then I learned that most people relax on vacation! They do crazy things like sleep in and take their time going places. Not us! We had to be up at sunrise and get to the beach before nine and not miss one minute of Cape Cod before we returned to a place that had no ocean or sand or the smell of pine trees, Coppertone and salt air.
The seating order in our station wagon had firmly and irrevocably established for years save for very special occasions. I swear, if you loaded us into a station wagon today, my two older sisters would be sitting behind my parents, my brother (the youngest) would stuff himself in the space between the back seats and my younger sister and I would climb to the way-back, a rear-facing seat where I am sure I’d promptly throw up.
Driving to the beach on the first day of the Cape Cod vacation was a very special occasion so we kids were all crammed as far to the front of the car as possible. (Why? My best guess is to not be last to arrive!)
I remember leaning over the front seat, nearly on top my lucky sister who sat in the front seat between my parents. None of us were fighting (more rare than a special occasion) because of the excitement of getting to The Beach!
Then it happened. It was slow motion, I remember it almost like a frame-by-frame movie.
We were driving across a low bridge with wooden rails. There were people walking along in bathing suits–lucky ones, close enough to be able to walk to the ocean from where they stayed. There was a woman in a white beach dress with a little boy in a red bathing suit walking away from the beach when all of a sudden the boy bolted off the sidewalk and ran right in front of our car! I remember his face, his red bathing suit with white buttons on it and his mother reaching out and screaming at him. My father jerked the wheel over to the right and slammed on the brakes with both feet–I saw him in a half-pike position, something I’d never seen before. The tires were screaming and instead of having the kid right in front of us, the wooden rail was coming up fast. We all went flying forward, I slammed over the front seat into my sister, my mothers knees slammed into the dash board, the other three kids slammed into the back of the front seat–yeah we were all slamming all over the place.
I remember thinking, actually wondering what it would be like to land in the water? Would we be able to swim? Would it be like jumping into a wave or would it hurt? Time felt like it was that slow for me to give the circumstances that kind of thought. I was absolutely certain we were going over, it seemed irrevocable.
It didn’t. The car stopped at the rail. We didn’t hit it, we just stopped. My Superman father managed to miss the boy and also managed to save his family from going over the bridge.
Before we could do the proverbial head count and tally up the injuries, my Superman father leaned out his window where the boy and his mother were standing with their mouths hanging open. He yelled, “You Boob!” to the boy, threw the car in reverse, straightend it out and drove on to the beach. The vacation was saved! There were a few bumps and scrapes but everyone was all right. Plus we had a great story with a powerful insult. “You Boob!” was our ultimate expression for an absolute idiot for years. It was usually flung at each other but often followed by helpless laughter.
I still fire it off occasionally when I’m driving.
Thanks for all the great memories Dad.