Mustang Sally

 My father bought the Mustang off the showroom floor. It was a 1964 1/2, red convertible, white interior, automatic. He said it was mine.

My dad, Oliver Rains, on one of his Sunday morning rides. It was never too early in the season to put the top down!

I was sixteen years old and not yet aware of the warning to, “read the fine print.” This particular fine print made it my car…except for Saturday and Sunday mornings when Daddy would be up at sunrise and gone until noon. So, the car wasn’t really mine. It was a time-share. But I soon discovered the benefit.  He always brought the car back spotless and with a full tank of gas.

Not until years later did I understand how my father had been enticed by Detroit’s answer to boredom. He fell under the spell of Lee Iacocca’s Mustang. Daddy was a white collar, middle class man in his 50’s. His mid-life crisis was as predictable as my mother’s menopause.  Ford was offering a remedy. In the mind of Oliver Rains, buying the Mustang was more than merely the cure for his middle-age malaise. To him it was almost practical.

Corvettes, Porches, and the like were out of the question. Too expensive. Too flashy. But how could you argue with a man who wanted to indulge his teenage daughter with a red convertible? She could drive herself to school. Run errands for her mother.  Genius! All he asked in return was weekend mornings to escape the humdrum life and hassles of the work week with a long drive in the fresh air and time to hang out with his buddies at the B&B Market or the little airport across the bridge in Chesapeake, Ohio.

I’ll never know what memories my father accumulated during his share of time in that car. Maybe it was the exhilaration of a top-down ride on the open highway.  Possibly it was just the free time away from four walls.  I do know that my share of Mustang memories from 1965 through 1969 includes rides to ball games and dances, drives to Myrtle Beach, and on one occasion a bit of small town thrill riding that included a bloody leg.

THE BLOODY LEG – a teenage adventure

My father lost his left leg to diabetes in 1965. He struggled with prosthetic limbs until he found one with the comfort and stability he needed. After he settled in with his new leg, the old leg was tucked away behind the door in the bedroom. One night, along with an accomplice who shall remain nameless, this spare leg made its way to the open trunk of the Mustang. We secured the thigh portion under the spare tire, and tied down the lid, leaving the calf of the leg, fully dressed in shoe and sock, hanging out in plain sight. Then we doused it with ketchup and drove around town to see how long it would take for the police to stop us.

We were pulled over on Fifth Avenue around 18th Street in front of Marshall University. The policeman said he, “wasn’t amused” by our little prank and gave us a stern talk about distracting other drivers and scaring children who might see a bloody leg dangling from the trunk of a car. There was no ticket. We went home feeling very successful. We had some laughs, a brush with authority, no one got hurt, and we made a clean getaway. For a weekend night in Huntington, West Virginia in 1965, that was pretty exciting!

It wasn’t until the next week that I was confronted by my father. He had been away on business when we pulled off our escapade, but word of the run-in made it back through his friend, the sheriff. First Daddy scolded, then he smiled, and then he reminded me that I was living in a small town. I had forgotten my father’s strong connections around the community and the fact that in their eyes, I was the teenage girl driving “Ollie’s red  Mustang.”

1969 – Holding Laura at our Detroit apartment. My father bought me a Dodge Dart that spring. “I’m not having my granddaughter riding around in a car that isn’t safe for children.”

The Other Mustang – 1997

 

My husband Melvin has many wonderful qualities. One of those qualities is his ability to build, tear down, and rebuild automobiles. He took the shell of a 1965 Mustang he found in an old barn and recreated my first ride. He scoured the internet and sourced everything from the white pony seat covers to the push-button AM radio. It was our runaround sunshine car for ten years.

In 1998. Kathie Grant Catlin riding shotgun, and Sue Scott McKee giving her royal wave from the back seat. We met to capture some of that Mustang fever from our high school days.

Back in the days of the first Mustang, this was my theme song. 

I’m With Ya Sista

I was an only child. The good news….no sharing required. The bad news….no shelter from my mother’s storm, no partner in crime or close confidant. That’s why my high school years were so important. I found my tribe at Saint Joseph Central Catholic High. Our class of 68 students. The girls who would become my best friends and the boys who would taunt, ignore, flatter, and do all those things high school boys do. Never threatening, never menacing, just the best boys ever.

On Monday I will attend the funeral of one of those tribe members, Abby Moran Robinson. I’ll drive to Columbus, Ohio, for the service. But I won’t travel alone. I’ll meet another bestie, Kathie Grant Catlin, half way and we’ll travel together. Because that’s what we do. Share the load, offer support. Be family for one another.

That’s the way it is now with my classmates. Between the phone calls, the emails, Facebook, and the Yahoo group managed by Linda Kemper Daniels, classmate wrangler extraordinaire, we have a network that keeps us in touch. There are big reunions and mini-reunions, all designed to keep the connection strong.

 

Just Push Play was published in the Freckles to Wrinkles Anthology in 2006 . My mother and aunt never assembled a VCR, but I’m guessing if they had, it would have looked and sounded like this.

Aunt Pauline, Aunt Ceil, and mother, Anne. The three amigos.

Just Push Play

Sylvie wasn’t on the porch. It was Helen’s first clue that something was wrong. Half the fun of these weekly outings was whizzing around the corner at the last minute to find Sylvie pacing the length of the porch staring at her watch. Some days she’d be standing in the driveway ready to run to the curb. Sylvie would rather be late for Sunday Mass than late for Bingo.

Helen rolled up to the curb and honked, but there was no response.

“Probably dropped dead from a heart attack,” she muttered.           “Damn fool.”

She swung the big Buick into the driveway, rocking to a halt just short of Sylvie’s garage door.  She threw the strap of the portable oxygen tank over her shoulder and, with an arm stretched out to the fender for support, teetered around the car and up the sidewalk.

A blend of Aqua Net and Shalimar sifted through the front door screen to greet her. Helen looked inside to see Sylvie poised in front of the television, decked out in a lime green polyester pants suit that barely camouflaged her pear shape, and sporting a crisp new updo that showed off her Clairol blonde. She was talking to the TV screen in a heated conversation, making her point with a wagging finger edged with the shiny red of a fresh manicure.

“They’ll put you in the home if they catch you talking to the TV like that,” Helen said walking through the door.

Sylvie waved her sister inside with the other manicured hand, never taking her eyes from the screen. “Look who’s talking,” she shot back. “You hardly get around on those gimpy legs. If anyone’s bound for the home, it’s you.”

“Yeah, but I’d rather be crippled than crazy.”

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Tribal Gathering

10-16-girlfriends-1

It’s so good to be surrounded by my tribe! When we are together I feel a security blanket of friendship that only comes through a history of shared experiences. L to R, Mary Creamer Edeburn, Abby Moran Robinson, Ginger B. Rains Collins, Kathie Grant Caitlin.

Longest-time Friends

These are women I’ve known since we were children, when life washed over our unique spirit and imprinted on our brain, and then rolled around in a bowl of personal environment to form the values, and opinions that have driven our decisions over the years. These are friends who have known me for as long as I have known myself. They know my story down to the bone and never hesitate to call me out when they hear BS.

There is something unique about this kind of friendship. No matter how different you turn out to be as adults, that deep foundation from the 50s and 60s remains the same. It’s the touchstone to understanding.

What about your tribe of besties? I’d love to hear. Post a comment or submit a story. Talk to me!