I wrote this post in September of 2000 for a writing class my senior year of college. In honor of throw back Thursday, I am FINALLY typing it up (with a few, but minimal edits).
Up until the fall of 1999, my parents drove a 1990 Chevrolet Celebrity Station Wagon. We named him Tom Cruise.* Tom has a very back seat and upon buying this car, that particular seat was deemed the coveted seat. The lucky sister who got to sit on that gray and black fuzzy seat was a lucky soul. It meant that she could get away from two pestering sisters who would inevitably touch her during some part of the ride AND she could enjoy upcoming traffic from a completely different and exciting vantage point.** Sometimes we would solicit close friends to join us in the back seat adventure. Once, on the way home from a puppet rehearsal at church, my best friend and I crouched down at every stop light and performed puppet shows for unsuspecting audiences in cars behind us.
Yes, times in the rear seat were fun…until we rather spontaneously realized that maybe cool people didn’t and/or shouldn’t gain (and give) pleasure from making faces at cars behind us. We were also increasingly aware of the awkwardness that settled between us and victims during those moments after the funny face was made and before the light turned green. At this point, the fights between my sisters and I were more focused on who had to sit in the rear seat instead of who got to sit there.
Many moments of grief and embarrassment were realized in that seat, most of which occurred on family vacations. You know when you have a really fat PE teacher in junior high and they are making you do 100*** push ups in front of the whole class because your form is wrong and the whole time you are wondering why they aren’t doing push ups, too? Well, the same sort of resentment can arise against your parents when you are stuck in the back and it is sweltering because of the windows all around and your parents are up front with the air conditioner blasting directly on them and they are asking the impossible, “Will you just have a good attitude?” Ha! Some good attitude, you think, YOU try doing that in a 180 degree atmosphere, Mom and Dad!****
For some reason during these long car rides to the South in the summer, one of us was always required to sit back there. I think my parents didn’t want us all 3 crammed in the middle seat because we might get claustrophobic? I don’t know. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I was assigned the 8 hour stretch between Memphis and Atlanta. This stretch turned into 11 hours when we hit a traffic jam that was 2.5 CDs long, outside of Nashville. I know this, because in the way back, music is your only consolation. Without it, you have nothing. It’s too hot to fall asleep and there is too vast a distance between you and the rest of the car to carry on a normal conversation-everything is yelled. Anyway, by the end of this grueling trek across Tennessee, I was silently crying to myself.
That seat can make you crazy. You think when you are in the normal part of the car, that the person in the back seat is overreacting until there you are, facing the same guy for 2 1/2 CDs, crying like a baby when you are 20!! On the next leg of that trip my sister Katie, was stuck back there, and she turned into a blubbering fool-offering us money to let her sit with us and when that failed, trying to physically force her way into the middle seat. Of course there was room for her but of course we weren’t letting her climb over. The whole scenario reminds me of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. He thinks he’ll be just fine in that big hotel, all locked up, and then he tries to kill his whole family.
Luckily, though, I am writing this a free woman. I have been liberated, along with my sisters, from the prison that is the rear seat. My sisters and I breathed a collective sigh of relief when Papa bought Parker, the Park Avenue. I am now the primary driver and care taker of the beautiful long white station wagon. He sits in my alley way, is littered with my sandals, tee shirts, church bulletins, and the like. No one needs to sit in the back anymore because Tom is the college kid car. He drives my friends and me around the town of Cedar Falls, IA. And when he’s feeling up to it, he does journey South, but only 3 hours away to see my parents.
The only unlucky souls that grace the back back seat are inanimate objects and I guess they aren’t even real “souls,” at all.
Epilogue December 2013
*There was a time, dear children, when Tom Cruise was worthy of having namesakes.
**This vantage point is likely no longer legal in newer cars.
***Obviously, this is a gross exaggeration.
****When my dad was a child and travelled with his 4 sisters and parents on vacation in a sedan, his “seat” was the little shelf behind the back seat. Obviously, he’d earned the right to the AC, I know that now.
Tom Cruise Chevrolet Celebrity lived a long life. Topping 100,000+ miles, he drove his final days in 2003 and has gone to car Heaven. His glorious/annoying memory will live vibrantly in our hearts forevermore.