The Evil Eye, Part 2

We weren't the only ones who liked to take the family out for a leisurely drive.

In the mid-1960s, we took car rides on Sunday afternoons.  Gas was cheap, stores were closed, and riding around the countryside seemed better than not riding around.  Mom would drive her two-door Ford Fairlane 500 with Mémé as co-pilot and the three of us girls would ride in the back seat—no gadgets to entertain us, just the promise of “lovely scenery” and maybe an ice cream cone if we were good.

When the “Ride-for-Fun” program began, Lisa was seven, I was nine, and Tina was eleven.  We were three chubby back-seat blondies in a row with dreams of ice cream dancing in our heads.  The car was black with a gray vinyl interior and the only thing automatic about it was the transmission.  I remember one ride particularly well, not because of our destination, but because of what happened during the ride.

Mémé was wearing a hat.  Every time she went outside, summer or winter, a hat completed her outfit. The hat was prophylactic. It was intended to protect her from menacing migraine-causing drafts.  As an extra precautionary measure, all the windows and vents in the car were closed.

Okay, the Ford dashboard wasn't exactly this complex, but the car was as airtight as an airplane when my grandmother was with us.

It was a sunny day and the interior of the car started heating up.  I was sweating in the back seat, the vinyl sticking to my fleshy young thighs.  I looked to my right and to my left.  Beads of sweat were trickling down my sisters’ foreheads.  I picked my leg up and it made a ripping sound.  My sisters noticed and did the same.  It sounded like we were tearing open Christmas presents.

“What is going on back there?” my mother said, her narrowed eyes looking at us through the rearview mirror.

Not being ones to suffer in silence, we thought it wise to alert the adults regarding the situation brewing in the back seat. And she did ask.

“Can you open a window, please?  We’re really hot!”  I pleaded, remembering my manners.

Mom said, “You know an open window wouldn’t be good for Mémé.” Mémé stared straight ahead, but I could see her slight imperial nod of approval.

We automatically produced a collective sister-sigh.

Mom continued, “It really isn’t all that hot. Be still and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Think about what flavor ice cream you want at Howard Johnson’s.”

The ice cream bait was a clever diversionary tactic.  But I could see her flushed face.  We were all trapped in a rolling crematorium.  She felt it, too.

“But it’s boiling back here!” Tina argued.  We were sitting fleshy shoulder to fleshy shoulder, radiating body heat like three over-stuffed hot tamales.  I was sure that one of two things would happen in that black car on a sunny day with no air circulation:

  1. We would die of some heat-related disaster before an ice cream cone could possibly save us.
  2. We would fuse together and have to join the circus as the newest addition to the “Freak Show” Exhibit: Conjoined Triplets.

How much would you pay to see 3 blonde girls fused together?

Either way, these two women in the front seat would have a whole lot of explaining to do down at the police station if things didn’t change in a hurry.

Maybe if Lisa begged, they would show some mercy.  “Please, can’t you open the window even a little bit?”  She was good.

This request was tantamount to putting a “hit” out on Mémé, but desperate times called for desperate measures.  Three adorable Rubenesque blonde girls with their whole lives ahead of them versus one old miserable woman who was endlessly ill—who would you pick?

Mom looked at her mother with that how-about-it look. Sitting in the middle of the back seat, I could see her eyes in the rear view mirror. I knew pleading when I saw it.  Mémé heaved a heavy sigh and rolled open her window about four inches. I smiled when I saw the window rolling down.  Relief was on the way.

What happened next remains a mystery.  Perhaps a NASA scientist could explain the astrophysics of it.  Before any heavenly rush of cool air ever reached the back seat of the car, Mémé’s hat was sucked off her head and disappeared out the window.  Unless you count vacuum cleaner mishaps, I’d never seen anything like it.

Some hats just won't go away and others defy laws of nature. This one belongs in both categories.

We were immobilized. My sweat stopped in mid-drip. I couldn’t believe what just happened. This was like a miracle; only miracles are supposed to be good.  This was definitely not good.  There was Mémé: hatless, white hair askew, a dazed look on her wrinkled face.  Mom gasped.  She continued driving, but she kept looking over at her mother, trying to comprehend what happened.  We never tried to get the hat back.  It was probably sucked into the Twilight Zone. Trouble doubles when you enter the Twilight Zone. And we didn’t need more trouble.

We each got Mémé’s best Evil Eye. I think she assumed we knew what would happen to her precious hat if the interior air pressure of the car was suddenly disturbed.  She totally overestimated our aptitude in science class.  If only we had allowed ourselves to spontaneously combust in the back seat of that Ford Fairlane 500, things would have been so much better.

So, maybe she didn't look that demented, but she was really mad about her hat.

We didn’t stop for ice cream.  I would’ve had two scoops of maple walnut.  Instead, I got grandmother-cursed. Again. That never would’ve happened to Opie.

~ by Lorna's Voice on October 19, 2011.

27 Responses to “The Evil Eye, Part 2”

  1. Thanks! You can’t make this stuff up!

  2. OMG, what a hilarious story! Watch out for the evil eye 🙂

  3. I love laughing to point of tears. If my words made that happen for you, I feel like I’ve done something magical. Thanks for telling me! 🙂

    You story about too much air sounds like a great one to write, Izzy (hint hint)…

  4. Hysterical … Hysterical .. Hysterical … I am laughing myself into tears. I can relate but with the opposite. My Dad and Mom opened the windows all the way so you felt like the car was going to take off like a plane.
    I can’t remember the type of car it was but it had these big wing-like flaps in the back. I remember having a hard time breathing because of the wind gusts … and … my Dad’s cigarette smoke coming right towards me.
    WOW … this was super GREAT, Lorna …

  5. I love your new moniker: Aurora, HSP.

  6. Glad you got a good belly laugh–great for the abdominal muscles, you know! 🙂

  7. Wonderful story, its amazing how adults think that these sort of experiences were premeditated. They assume we were smarter than what we really were.

  8. It’s good to know there are lots of “riding around” stories out there! My story evoked lots of memories and I like that! 🙂

  9. Even though I wasn’t born in the 60’s, my family did take Sunday drives. In Amish country. It was awesome. Of course, I’d mostly take a book and read and there were only two of us (sis and I) so we had room. And my Dad would’ve never let it get uncomfortably hot. Usually it was too cold!

  10. Whoo! Oh, let me catch my breath from laughing so hard! I’m not kidding, I think this one is your funniest yet!

    The flesh ripping off the hot vinyl–rolling along in a crematorium–the shoulder to shoulder hot tamales–becoming fused no less! But the best of all–“My sweat stopped in mid-drip”!

    And you had to suffer that damn evil eye again!

  11. My sweat stopped mid drip – great sentence. Mine would have, too, 🙂

  12. I’m so glad ti happened because it’s such one in a gazillion thing to have happened. I never heard of such a thing happening to anyone–getting a hat sucked off their head from opening a car window…you can’t make this stuff up (at least I can’t)!

  13. Sorry for Meme’s hat but it was worth losing, yes? I felt like I was sitting in that back seat with you guys and sweating it out.

  14. Yup–middle child, middle seat gal. Would you have expected anything different?

    It was the funniest thing ever, but we didn’t dare laugh. We’d been put up for adoption or something!

  15. I’m so glad, Terri! Good to know there are some way too cool grandmas out there!! 🙂

  16. No seat belts. That’s right. How did we survive childhood? 😉

  17. Yes, everyone is multidimensional and she had her wonderful qualities. But, oh, that evil eye was memorable!

  18. I am certain if it were me in the back seat, I’d be grounded until maybe a few months ago, for I would have howled with laughter. Not right away mind you, but the kind that starts as a suppressed smile, then the darting eyes back and forth to my fellow occupants, building, and building some more until…

    I think I just laughed hard enough for all three of you in the back seat.

    On another note – were you always a middle seat person? I remember long trips we would take on vacation with cousins, and let me tell you, We’d be in the car hours before we left, just to make sure we didn’t get middle seat with that awful hump from the drive shaft, and no level spot to rest our feet. 🙂

  19. LOVE this story. You are a master storyteller, Ms Lorna. I was right there with you. Only, I wasn’t the Grandma with the hat (because I’m way too cool to be that Grandma), I was one of you girls. Nicely written! This story rocked my morning. Thanks.

  20. Thats a classic. What is great is I remember those mindless sunday afternon drives too. If we were very lucky there was afternoon tea, or should I say sandwich. We had a Ford Prefect or something like that: not entirely new. Mum and Dad sat in the front and we all sat in the van section. There were no seats or seat belts . We used t pass the time playing I Spy, and singing 10 green bottles. Its a long way from the Playstation lifestyle.

  21. I’m picturing Dorothy’s protagonist riding her bicycle with the basket on the back and little Toto peeking out from under the lid. I’m sure Meme was warmer and gentler and more loving than that but the “evil eye” image took me straight to that scene.

    Very descriptive story. I got claustrophobic reading it.

  22. Oh, I got plenty of maple walnut ice cream in my youth, so missing it that one time wasn’t too traumatic… 😉

  23. That sounds like a story you should tell us about! 😉

  24. You are most certainly welcome! 🙂

  25. How hilarious (although I totally get that it wasn’t when you were living it!). The odds of that hat flying off like it did are just incredible. Thanks for a morning laugh!

  26. Thanks for helping to revive some personal forgotten memories: sticky siblings in the back of a ’68 Chevy Impala, single Mom, overbearing Grandmother, in HOT Florida. Love your style of writing and humor! -Lee

  27. Poor Lorna!

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: