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October 7, 2009 / dcwisdom

The Little Blue Valiant

Do you remember the first car you ever drove?

Today while in the neighboring city, I spied a car. It was light blue and looked like a car I possibly drove when I was just passed by 13th birthday. I wanted to take a picture, but it was one of those split-second moments where the glance brought back floods of memories. Ever have those?

Does something like this ring your memory bell? How about this?

In my memory bank is a silly, but true, story about the little blue Valiant. I have no idea who made the Valiant — Ford, maybe — but I really liked that car. The only feature that intrigued me was the gear shift. Most gear shifts on cars in the 1960’s were on the column, but this model’s was on the dash in the form of push buttons. So modern. It looked so cool. (And remember, ‘cool’ was the new word for ‘neat-o.’)
One Saturday, my parents and siblings left the house to go swimming, and I was allowed to stay home for the day. What could a very young 13 year old do?
Being bored soon after the family left, I called my friend Pat. She and I were inseparable, best friends, walked to and from school together, hung out on the weekends. “Want to come over and play basketball? No one here but me.” She was over in a nano-second.
To play basketball, I needed to move my dad’s car. Those were the days when everyone left the keys in the car with the windows rolled down no matter where you parked – church, grocery, post office. Now, mind you, I’d never driven a car before. I was just passed 12 years old and lived in town. Didn’t even know which side of the street was proper to drive on; didn’t know about traffic rules. Just stop at stop signs and red lights. Good enough.
Pat said, “Hey, let’s drive the car.”
“I can’t drive.”
“Yes, you can. It’s easy. My brother drives.”
“Ok.” I was such a push-over.
“Just pull up and down the driveway,” she said. I pushed the ‘R’, and not even looking back, the car backed down the driveway. That was fun. I stopped the car and pushed ‘D’. We drove back up the driveway. Back. Up. Back. Up. Fun. We’d forgotten about basketball.
“You’re doing very well. Let’s go around the block.” Our house was on a corner lot with only one neighbor on the side but not the back. Dad had made a car trail through the backyard and around to the side street. Pat and I took off on the little trail, came to the street, and stopped.
“Which way, Pat?”
“We’re only going around the block. Just turn right, go to the corner, turn right, go to the driveway, turn right, and you’re back home.” Now, mind you, cars didn’t have power steering then, so the wheel was hard to turn.
We did that, maybe two times. Then she said, “Drive around the big block.” Sure. I could do that. So we did that. Cool.
“You’re a really good driver,” she bragged on me. “Let’s drive to town and down by the park.” With so much confidence now in my really good driving skills, I readily agreed. I really don’t know how we got there. Thirteen-year-old minds are so unformed. The soft spot on the brain is not even grown together. Never did I think about my parents, or having a wreck, or caring who saw me. Who cared!? Not me. I was driving! If only some cute guys could see us! Pat and I were giddy.
Now, mind you, in the sixties, downtowns were happening places. Strip malls were just being invented, but everything still happened downtown, especially on Saturday afternoons. How we got there, I don’t know. There were soooooo many cars and traffic lights and people… But, my brain was not fully functioning, so who cared?! Not me. I was driving. We were giddy.
How we got from town to the park, I don’t know. But, we were seeing people there going into the baseball park, and we waved at them like we were celebrities. One man’s mouth flew open! I knew the man; Dad knew the man. The person I knew would fink on me was standing with his mouth open, staring at me. I waved and smiled, like an idiot. No, I was an idiot.
I told Pat, “Gotta go home now.” How we got home, I don’t know. My brain…
I parked. Pat left. Soon after, my parents and siblings came in. Dad already knew – somehow. Probably, the fink.
I got the appropriate punishment for the 1960’s – a good, whopping 17 licks on my pantied butt. I counted every lick. My dad wore his arm out. I think that’s the only reason he stopped.
Did I deserve it? Gosh, yes. Even my non-functioning brain knew that. But, knowing I deserved every lick, I didn’t cry. Not until everyone was asleep. But…

It was worth it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeeee-Haaaa!
And, to my sister who turned 52 today, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! I love you!
See you in the funny papers.