I’ve written some crazy stories but now I’m looking at personal essays as snippets of memoir that I might write with the class I am about to take: Personal Essays. Here’s a snippet, a true story. See if you think it works. Americans aren’t the only ones to have a love affair with cars…Australians do too.
Each week, my father drove a different car. He laughed when his new wife told him he was “car crazy.”
“I like change,” he said with a cheeky grin. I wondered what else he wanted to change. The new wife, perhaps? He moved into another house every two years because he grew bored with “the old concrete block” or “the new ten acre property on Stanfield Terrace,” or the “horse farm in Bermaguie.”
He shifted gears often. My father owned a car dealership and could borrow cars off the display lot whenever he felt the whim. Most of the cars carried the Ford label but one in particular was a crazy-looking blue jeep MG.
One afternoon, I heard a loud beep-beep-beep. There sat my father in a large, round, blue fifties’ low to the ground MG, its canvas roof pulled back and down. He tipped his tweed cap at me and blared the stupid horn, revving the engine like a sixteen year old learning to drive.
“It’s for your mother,” he shouted over the noise. “I thought she should own a car now.” Now that things had changed, I added in my head.
My mother leaned over the balcony. “What the hell has he got now? I can’t drive that thing,” she shouted from the iron railing. Her voice drifted into the forest and my father either couldn’t hear or pretended he couldn’t hear. The two dachshunds rushed down the stairs and the skinny black one with brown feet jumped into the back seat.
“See, she likes it,” my father said as he opened the car door and picked up the fat brown dog with the fat brown feet and plumped her into the driver’s seat where she sat and looked stupid, eyes glazed over.
“Your new wife isn’t going to like that you spent money on me,” my mother shouted.
“I didn’t. I borrowed the car from the used car lot. You can use it for as long as you like.”
God forbid he should spend money on her. Actually, he was generous with jewels and furs but those were in past days, when she was a trophy wife with a big nose.
My mother took the keys and learned to drive that car, one block at a time, one mile at a time, one suburb at a time, until she was driving to the beach five miles away. She joined the Surf Life Saving Club in Cronulla and they elected her president. That car gave her independence. One day she decided the dogs needed to go everywhere with her in the back seat. Whenever she pulled up to a stop light, both dogs yapped and whined and tried to jump out of the car. It was especially embarrassing when I had to ride home with her from school. When friends from high school happened next to us, I stared straight ahead.
“Oh, yes that might have been me in that blue car.”
My father drove the car one day to tune it up. He took the new Afghan hound with him. From behind, the dog looked like a woman with long blonde hair. He told me that one of the blokes at the office had seen him on Sydney Harbor Bridge and commented on the “gorgeous blonde” he had next to him in the front seat. “You sure get around, don’t you?” the man said.
I told my mother the story and that my father had thought it was funny but my mother just said she was used to him driving around with dogs!