Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fast Car

I’m a auto-visual sort of person- I see a certain car and it cues a memory. I see a first generation Mustang and I instantly remember the all-three network introduction on prime time TV. A Jaguar E-Type reminds me of a top-down drive on a moonlit Michigan summer night, with both speedo and tach needles pointing straight up. And oddly enough, a Triumph TR-3a sports car takes me all the way back to Christmas of 1963.

I was just a toddler, and had fallen asleep on the back seat of Dad’s big ‘61 Electra 225 on the way out to my Grandparents’ farm in Byron, Michigan. Dad was one of seven, and on Thanksgiving and Christmas the whole clan would gather at the farm. I was still asleep when we arrived, so Dad scooped me up and carried me inside.

At least that was his intention. Grandfather wasn’t the very best at maintaining things, and the tales of his automotive choices are disasters for another day. But suffice to say the broken glass in the storm door probably should have been repaired prior to the family gathering. That way, Dad wouldn’t have accidentally put my little head through the broken glass and cut it wide open.

I doubt we were even inside before blood began gushing out. I’m not sure Dad ever quite put me down, and it's highly doubtful that I even got my coat off. All I know for sure is that a holiday with turkey and toys turned out instead to be an urgent trip to the emergency room in Flint, nearly 25 miles away.

And for that we needed a fast car. Fortunately, my Uncle David came to the rescue. His cute little Triumph TR-3a, with its bug eyes and wide mouthed grille, was right outside the jagged door. It was quick, it's snug little cabin had a heater, and it had washable vinyl seats and sort of a top. We wedged ourselves in and the Two and a Half men were off. 

Dad put me between the bucket seats and wrapped a towel tightly around my head. From my vantage point, I could watch the gauges- especially the speedometer and tach, both of which were swinging wildly as Uncle David did his best to make the little Triumph fly. I was mesmerized by the gauges and pretty much oblivious to the fact that I was painting the interior red. Google Maps suggests the trip takes a half hour, but Uncle Dave got us there much quicker than that. I wonder how much of the trip the little car was actually touching the road.

The next thing I knew we were at the hospital where a nice lady in white stitched my head closed again, and within a couple of hours we were back at the farm. Poor Granddad never heard the end of the broken storm door- my Grandmother was not very pleased and never let him forget it.  Although Mother wasn’t exactly amused either, she played the Diplomat and saved her words for when we were back home. Dave replaced the carpet in the TR-3a that spring, I'm not sure if I was the cause of that. But my lingering memory was watching the gauges- especially the tach- and I learned that it was worth a little suffering to ride in a really cool car.

I guess I've pretty much lived by those words.

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