Over the last few weeks, my sister and I have had marathon phone calls: two hours here, two hours there, and we don’t repeat ourselves! Amazing how the time flies and all the memories come flooding back: some I didn’t remember and some that Roe didn’t. A cherished reminder: I was 13 years old when this little girl was born.
One piece of my life that we both remembered well was my first car. I would drive anything that had four wheels, a motor and a steering wheel. A bus or a truck wouldn’t stop me—it was a challenge. Relatives’ cars were fair game. Dad was very stingy with his car. The times he let me borrow it were indeed few and far between. He claimed he needed the car for business and that his insurance didn’t cover me.
Finally, I decided there was a solution to this problem: I’d buy my own car. I was twenty years old, responsible and had a job in Manhattan. I would need a co-signer for a car loan, but my father could help me with that. I started going to the various dealerships in White Plains; it didn’t take me long to find my dream car. It was a 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible, cashmere blue and white, with a white top. I wanted Dad to come with me to check it out, I knew he’d love it. Dad listened and when I’d finished, he said: “You don’t need a car; girls don’t need their own cars.” Unacceptable, Dad!
My family knows that when I set out to do something, I go full speed ahead. I called my aunt (Dad’s baby sister and my godmother) and asked her if she’d co-sign the loan. She answered that my uncle would loan me the money—he didn’t want me to pay interest on a loan-- I would make monthly payments to him. This was perfect—I’d own my dream car and have dinner once a month with my aunt and uncle. Fantastic!
Dad was gardening when I pulled into the driveway in my beautiful, shiny new car. He looked at the car, then me: “Where are the dealer plates?” he asked.
“The car is mine, Dad.”
I’ll never forget the look of disappointment on his face. He silently turned and went back to his gardening. I got all kinds of grief when I went inside.
Mom was cool toward me because I’d hurt my father, and Dad was silent when he came in. I can still picture my seven-year old sister standing in the kitchen, hands on her hips, shouting that they were being mean and “why shouldn’t Ruthie have her own car?” This little half-pint was furious.
I told my aunt about the cold war at home. She came to our house and stood face-to-face with Dad.
“Well,” she said “why shouldn’t Ruthie have her own car? You never let her use yours! You’ve never let ANYONE borrow your car for as long as I can remember.”
My father looked her straight in the eye and then burst out laughing. He could never be upset for long with his little sister. Peace was restored once again and smiles returned.
Pleasant memories are associated with my sweet car. My little sister not only was my co-pilot, she named the car “Blue Bonnet.” (I had forgotten her magical contribution to this major happening in my life). We had many favorite trips: going to Tommy Chen’s for lunch, going to Milk Maid for milk shakes, going to Jones Beach or just taking a ride with the top down. During one of our recent conversations, Roe said she felt so proud and grown-up riding up front in “Blue Bonnet.”
Roe and I treasure these calls. We catch up on our lives and remember times past that were happy and brought us so close. Of course, we’ve shared sad and not-so-happy memories but that’s life, isn’t it? Until the next “marathoner,” love you my little co-pilot!