Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So what's with all the cars and trucks?

It's a Dad thing! My Father was the head mechanic for a transportation/ construction company. Every time he saw an old car, it reminded him of an event. He would smile and shake his head and launch into an exhaustive retelling, right down to how many times he had to turn the bolts. From the time he had to repair a truck on the Mystic River Bridge before it was attached at both ends to the $300 he earned making two passes with a snowplow, cars were unfailingly interesting in my family.

Dad and I logged many hours in the car together. I used to ride to our cottage with my Dad's narrative for entertainment. He renamed all the road like "Old Snakeback". Our cars had names as well. He told me that if I didn't name the car, "How could I talk to it?!" "Nellybell was the first name I remember.

On our way to NH one spring we stopped in Haverhill to watch huge earthmovers do site work for a new plant. Ice cream at Wasmaco's and clams at Merle's were standard stops.

Our cars were never new, rather elderly models kept functioning by Dad. One of the first cars I remember had a city horn and a country horn. A most impressive feature. Our cars were from before directional signals were invented - back when you had to stick your arm out the window to signal your intentions.

A broken teenage romance inspired Dad to start my driving lessons at 14. He just couldn't stand any more boo hooing around the house. We went up to the Harold Parker Forest and he pulled over to the side of the road. After I got behind the wheel, he drew the stick shifting pattern in the dust on the dashboard. All the hopping and chugging soon had us both laughing. It was not all smooth sailing until Dad brought home a 1949 clunker. Since we lived on an "unaccepted" street - the term for our dirt road, Dad felt it was okay for me to drive the clunker around the neighborhood. The boy next door used to ride with me while I helped him with his homework. That must have been the beginning of talking through every crisis from behind the wheel. My shifting improved remarkably. Mud was another matter. A classmate of mine who lived further down our road was waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up. I got stuck where her driveway turned off. She was not happy to pick her way through the mud to meet her date.

In time I was legally able to get my license. Since my Mother did not drive, Dad said I didn't have to pay for anything as long as I took my Mother wherever she wanted to go. We went to a lot of ice cream stands! Each summer I would load the boat with all our summer belongings, hitch it behind the car, and drive to the cottage. Dad taught me how to back up the boat trailer. Backing up a trailer has actually become somewhat of a spectator sport around here as we live across the street from a boat launch ramp. Some folks are more successful than others, me included!

In the fall of 1989, we lost Dad. It was hard for all of us. In an effort to stay busy, I took a painting class. A beat up old car sitting in the weeds became my first sale. Later I received a commission to paint a house with the owners Porsche in the driveway. It was more fun to do the car than the house. I had found my niche.

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