In bed after an 8 turned into a 10-hour shift. The bedroom suddenly plunged into light, accompanied by an adolescent voice.
“You’re in the wrong house!” I replied. “There is no one living here by that name! I knew someone by that name; she moved to Boise and did not leave a forwarding address!”
Despite trying to paw my way into the box springs, the voice, like a somnolent blue bottle fly, persisted until finally I bolted up “What?!”
It was the car. Of course, the car.
Always, always, always the car.
When I left for work each morning, the car, while not pristine, was parked in its designated spot. Four fully inflated tires on the ground. Doors and windows that opened and shut, exhaust pipe tucked in place, working window wipers and lights, head and tail. Trunk and hood intact, combustible engine performing according to the manual.
Paid for, licensed and insured. But with one fatal flaw — the drivers.
Twenty-five months separated my first three children, followed by three years until the arrival of #4 and four years until #5. We deliberately moved to a community where they could walk/bike to the elementary school, ball field and swimming pool.
The school system had a late bus for middle and high school activities. Transportation was not available for jobs — you better believe they each had a job. Thus for the oldest, a shared car in the shape of a questionable vintage Volkswagen Beetle. A few dents and scratches which, despite a chorus of, “So and so has a brand new Chevy”, was perfectly road-worthy.
The first time the car was totaled, my oldest daughter’s boyfriend was driving. Was it unreasonable to expect he should have been driving his parents’ car? They only had four children … and more money.
The second time, my oldest son disembarked without shifting into “park”, and watched the car roll down a hill into a tree.
The worst driver, by far, was my middle daughter:
“I backed into a fire hydrant. It wasn’t my fault — the fire hydrant was painted green.”
“A boulder leaped out of the ground and smashed into the right fender.”
“This stupid car. It thumped all the way home from work.” A flat tire can cause that.
The Volkswagen, suffering by then from irreparable damage, was replaced with a second. Bright blue, and missing front and back bumpers, with a few floorboards gaping on the passenger side, it was all I could afford, and she was going to trash it anyway.
The next car was a Volkswagen sedan was purchased for Son #2 by their father. Son #2 was a gregarious individual, so laid-back that we regularly did a pulse check. Off he went into the Navy leaving the empty-tanked car stranded in the driveway. I finally got tired of looking at it, and with the help of a neighbor, pushed it to the curb.
A simple “abandoned car” phone call to the police, and it was towed in a flash.
My youngest child, Daughter #3, was given a car by her stepfather. Not a brand-new car, but a serviceable car. She drove it back and forth to East Clinton High School, thence to Central Michigan where she matriculated, with nary a surface mar.
She probably drove it for several more years until she was earning enough to buy a new car.
If there is to be a point to this saga … Have at least one responsible child and/or live someplace offering public transportation.
Ann Kuehn resides at Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington. She says, “I gravitated to Ohio at age 18 and never left” and moved to Sabina in 1987.