In response to: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/35428337/posts/975665065
I suppose this is a story, all right, but it isn’t just a story. You might say it’s a part of history (as everything is, once it’s happened) even if it’s a very small part.
You’ve heard of the Hudson Hornet, right? Okay, not a whole lot of people still on the planet today are familiar with that particular model of automobile. Even in its day, which was around the 1950s, it wasn’t one of the huge success stories of the transportation world. It wasn’t an expensive car. Somehow the words We got a new Hudson! didn’t have the same ring as We got a new Cadillac! If a Cadillac seemed to come wrapped in glittery gold sparkles, the Hudson wore a cloak of flannel—comfortable, maybe, but not very elegant.
How the Hudson came into my life was pretty typical of the way things happened when we were young. I was nine and my sister seven the year my folks decided we could finally afford to take a long vacation. Long Beach, California, to someplace in Maryland near Washington D.C., with my dad’s sister and her large family at the far end to provide a place to stay a few days for free.
Free was a big thing. In those days, mothers worked at being mothers, while dads brought home paychecks. At our house, that worked out just fine. We certainly didn’t have extra money for Cadillacs, but there was plenty for everything we needed and a bit extra for popcorn at the movies. When Mom announced that she had somehow managed to save enough to make a trip, Sister and I were delighted, and Dad (as far as I could see) was amazed. The folks sat in the evenings after we were in bed and figured to the penny how we could make everything work.
When are we going to leave? Soon, soon. Can I take all my comic books? Maybe one or two. When are we going to leave?
Eventually we packed two suitcases and three stuffed pillowcases, a large picnic basket, a couple of favorite blankets and ourselves into Dad’s pride and joy—a black Packard that stretched the length of our house and ran like a dream when it was in the mood. We planned to start at about 2 a.m. without fail so we could get across the California desert before the heat kicked in; we were actually up and fed, dressed and pottied, and on the road by about 4:30. The adventure had begun.
The adventure lasted until about mid-morning, by which time Sister and I had fretfully marked out our spaces in the back seat—“It’s my turn to sit on the floor!”—and the temperature in and out of the car was rising to record levels. Dad kept a careful eye on the multitude of gauges the Packard boasted, while Mom hauled out the first of the emergency toys. It was going to be that kind of trip.
Motels weren’t expensive and, as far as Mom was concerned, essential for the health and sanity of the family. We were exceptionally good kids—my sister will surely back this up—but Mom had seen us at our tired and whiny worst, so sleeping accommodations for the journey came at the top of the expense list. Food was a different matter.
We ate a lot of meals in the car, or at rest stops along the way. Sister and I thought we were privileged kids because we got to have cereal for breakfast, eaten out of clever individual cardboard boxes that, with a fingernail, tore down the middle to make a traveling bowl. Somehow it tasted better that way, of course. The day would start with a quick stop at a grocery store for cold milk and the occasional jar of grape jelly. PB&J and a turn on the swings at a local park sufficed for most lunches. It was wonderful.
All in all, the trip was a great experience. We picked up a bit of history at George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon (Is it lunchtime yet?), some politics at the U.S. Capitol (Do I have to have my picture taken on the steps?), and a whole lot of enthusiastic chatter from the front seat regarding the beauties of nature as we passed (Yeah, it’s pretty. Will you tell her it’s my turn for the crayons?)
The only real glitch came just as we were coasting peacefully through the rural acreage of Iowa, and it was a beaut. Dad’s beloved Packard started making strange noises and an occasional unexpected halt, with noisy shudders and coughing as he coaxed it back into service. Finally, it decided that a trip across country and halfway back was enough, and it slid to a clanking halt somewhere in a city called Des Moines. Mom unloaded Sister and me under a shady tree and warned us to play nice with each other while Dad lifted the hood of the villainous vehicle and performed a bunch of mysterious tricks inside. He prodded, he jiggled, he muttered, all to no avail. Even Dad, an expert mechanic from way back, couldn’t save this one.
So much for the best-laid plans and all that. By the end of the day, the family was the proud owner of a new car and a large repayment program. We left the beautiful but faithless boat of a Packard there on the lot for someone else to deal with, and packed everything we had with us into a new, small, ugly… Hudson. Everything except the crayons, that is. Those, carefully laid out on candy wrappers, had unfortunately melted on the deck behind the rear seats of the Packard while the car sat in the sun. Served it right, seemed to be the unanimous conclusion.
Sister and I had never heard of a Hudson, and I don’t think our mother had either. The intricacies of finance, though, decided that we could afford a Hudson, so a Hudson is what we got. Ours wasn’t even the Hudson Hornet, which the salesman claimed was the greatest car on earth. Ours was the Wasp, a lesser model not to be spoken of with the same exuberance at all. But the new Wasp, designed somewhat along the lines of a bathtub, had one really great feature: it started when you turned the key, and what’s more, kept on running as long as you wanted it to. It brought us home to California safely, and by the time we drove into the garage, tired and happy, we’d achieved a certain comfort level with the new mode of transport.
So where does the history stuff come in? I don’t know, except that there was a lot of love and a lot of fun in our family, and those things inevitably affected who I became. If your life touches mine, then who I am affects who you are, even if the only result is that you read these few paragraphs, mutter, “Hogwash!” and suddenly feel compelled to sit down and write something better.
Prompt number 27, for no particular reason.