“David, we’re late,” my mother says, stuffing me into cold weather clothes. I open my mouth to answer but she’s already in the kitchen grabbing a Dukes of Hazard lunchbox, two backpacks and her own coat and hat faster than a quick-change artist. She opens the door and the cold air hits us like a board.
“Into the Embarras-mobile,” she says. “Go.”
The Embarras-mobile was an ocean blue Ford Galaxy 500 with no hubcaps, fist-sized rust holes and flesh-colored patches of unsanded Bond-O. It was huge — with a hood like a helipad and bench seats half a mile long.
I climb in. The windshield is caked in a thin sheet of ice. My mother cranks the defroster and peers through a shoebox-sized hole in the frost.
She clicks the radio on. “Another Saturday Night” by Sam Cooke floats through the speakers. “Ugh,” she says. “Your father’s music.” She shifts it into drive and hits the gas.
My father listened to the “oldies” station with a smile on his face. “Someday,” he’d tell us, “I’ll take the car to the car wash, drive through the spray and the brushes and when I come out on the other side … it’ll be 1963.”
“That’s weird, dad,” I’d say, but he wouldn’t answer. He was lost in a memory far away.
My mother turns the corner and the icy windshield suddenly shines with piercing sunlight. “I can’t see,” she says.
I roll down my window and stick my head outside. “Don’t worry, mom, I can see,” I lied. “Keep going.”
“Are you sure?” she says, hitting the brake.
“Yeah,” I say. The frigid air burns the tip of my nose and makes my eyes water. “Just keep going straight ahead.”
The collision throws me hard against my seat belt. We hit a parked pickup truck.
“I thought you could see?” my mother says.
“I thought I could, too,” I say. Now the radio was playing “Put Your Head On My Shoulder,” and I was wishing for a magical car wash.
* * *
Last week, my wife and I took the kids to the playground. After three days of bickering in the house, we needed to get out.
We pulled out of the driveway and my wife turned on the radio. A Van Halen song blasted from the speakers.
“Jeeze, hon!” she shouted, turning the volume down. “Don’t leave it on like that.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“What was that?” my daughter, Gracie, asked from the back seat.
“Your father’s music,” my wife said.
“Someday Grace,” I told her, “I’ll go to the car wash ….”