We each had a horse growing up but it was not a pet, it was transportation. With five kids and a full time business, my folks were not about to transport each of us around. If we wanted to go somewhere, we hopped on our horse and disappeared. Cars in those days were approached the same way. They were something to hop on, but not necessarily in.

I used to wait for my uncle as he turned the corner on his way home from work. He never slowed as I raced his car, leaping at top speed on the running board. We visited and smiled through the open window traveling the last mile together, while I sucked in dust and the smell of tobacco from his cherry wood pipe. On warm summer evenings, we took my parent’s car down country roads with my brothers, sisters and friends lounging across the hood and trunk, hands behind our heads like a pillow, starring into open sky and tree branches. A license didn’t matter, we were in the middle of nowhere. Most of us learned to drive sitting on pillows so we could see over the steering wheel.

When my cousin Rip came home from the Navy, he built himself a car out of old parts. It was his Merry Oldsmobile, held together with bailing wire. It had no roof and no floor at all, so passengers had to hold their feet up when he drove. I used to love watching the road ribbon by underneath us.

Then in boarding school there was the unforgettable Monsieur Le Gurre, our French Instructor straight from Paris. When his Citroen finally arrived in the rolling hills of Vermont, he took our entire class outside to admire it. “Come, come, I will show you,” he said in barely understandable English. “I will drive you all!”  Twenty students piled on the hood, the roof and what little trunk there was. The rest stood on the bumper, overflowed the backseat, the front and hung from the windows. It was a sight one does not quickly forget. Unfortunately, the headmaster was watching and quickly dismissed Monsieur Le Gurre from future duties, but not before a spin around town.

As a young mother, I thought nothing of putting my kids in the boot of the car, their feet dangling over the bumper, tree branches propped inside to hold the trunk open. They sat together on a blanket and had a good old time watching the woods go by. I’m sure they sucked down plenty of exhaust, but didn’t seem the worse for it. I remember one couple waving scolding fingers as they passed, but I paid them no mind. What better time could a kid have?

Now, when we near the road to my house and my granddaughter wants to stand on the passenger seat, her upper body shooting up through the sunroof, hair flying in the wind and arms outstretched, I say, go for it! A big smile spreads across her face, and I know in that moment that she feels alive and engaged with life, not strapped in and confined.

Watching her embrace the wind reminds me of a couple I counseled a few years ago, who denied their parents access to their children because the parents took them around the block without seatbelts on. “They were irresponsible and can’t be trusted with our children.” I sigh, knowing that their parents, like myself are products of another era.

6 thoughts on “Getting Around

  1. Karen, once again you speak to the real, the simple, the pure, the joy. Tears welled up up as I think about how society has become so fear based and rule regulated. They say we either live in fear or love.
    I can understand why we have gotten to this place… it just seems….sad to me.
    But!! As you.. I will certainly find the little ways that my Grandchildren will experience “the wind blowing through their hair”!

    Thank you Karen. Peace and love to you.

  2. My heart leaps a little to see the Well Met email in my box. Yeah! Karen is writing again. I abandon resolution to continue writing on the Ethics in Francde 1989 paper and dive into Karen’s story. Taking in each sentence I find myself holding my breath: when Karen writes like this there is always a good punchline. Smiling and wading through her words, I inhale, reassuring myself, it’s safe.
    Making it to the last lines- there it is– the punchline. I exhale. All is right with the world again and I am satisfied.
    Thank you for sharing your Gift!!!

  3. I echo the prior comments. It is always such a treat to read another of your posts, a treat that has been sorely missed of late! You have such a gift for turning a random thought or observation into a delightful story that always not only has a punch line, but a message we would all do well to heed. Much love, my friend!!!

  4. Its really nice mom. I rode in the back of my scout master’s pick up with six other boy scouts after every meeting. A few other times as well. I remember hearing the news that this would be out-lawed. I did notice you left the part out where I was convinced the bottom of the trunk would fall out .

  5. What a fun story to read! I too remember a time when we piled in the back of the truck and drove around. My father would take a knife and cut the seat belts out of the car as soon as he bought it! I also remember taking trips and lying across the back window, if I was lucky, typically I got the floor board in the back seat with the hump!! And I remember Kris teaching me how to drive in the pasture! Good memories. You are so gifted at expressing your thoughts!! Thank you! I have to say, I am like Cora, I so look forward to your writings!

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