The Carriage Driver² - Forever '51
“Keep an eye out for that yellow car,” Mark said while pointing through the windshield. “She is drifting back and forth.”
“I see her, and besides, if she hits us, we won’t have to go to this party,” Kathy shot back in a tone bordering on contempt.
“You have to admit; the party is a good idea. After all, she is our Mother, and she is turning eighty-eight.”
Kathy glanced at her brother, who usually took a hard stance when it came to anything regarding their Mother. “You’re just proud that my God-daughter Kate thought of the idea of a party set in 1951.”
“You have to admit, that you did not have a conversation with Toni for years that did not center on her life in the fifties. And don’t call her Toni; she is your Mother for Christ sakes.” Her right hand released the wheel and pivoted a punch on Mark’s arm.
Mark rubbed his arm, in mock pain. “What’s that make her; someplace in her early twenties? I barely remember my twenties.”
“Yes, she would have been twenty-three; that is right after she had you by-the-way.” Kathy tapped the brakes as the yellow car again drifted into her lane. “Kate’s idea of inviting her friends from the Car Club was a good one. I am interested in seeing those restored old cars.
Kathy turned the corner, heading up the hill to Kate’s place. She was happy to see the Car Club had arrived. It would be good to have a mix of younger people there at the house. Once parked, Kathy and Mark went inside, each carrying a large box with food.
Toni was sitting in a big overstuffed chair. Kathy was pleasantly surprised that the Car Club members all came 1950’s era garb. The girls either wearing skirts to their calf or tight pants that ended at their calf. Boys in starched Levi’s and square cut checkered shirts not tucked in.
A chill went up and down Mark’s spine when he saw his Mother. Someone, he suspected Kate, dressed her in a full dress with full slip. She was wearing a wig, done up in a style resembling a wave. Toni was smiling ear to ear and talking to a young man who had braved sitting down in a chair next to her. He was holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. His ironed and creased, blue jeans, clean white tee-shirt, and duck-tailed hairdo could not hide his lack of good sense from Mark.
In the backyard, Kate was coaching her husband Drew in the art of barbecuing hamburgers and orchestrating hot dogs off the grill. Many of the young members of the Car Club were hanging out in the backyard having a good time.
Julie, Mark and Kathy’s sister arrived late. She walked inside and spotted the record player and carefully selected LP’s grabbed up a Frank Sinatra album and set it to spinning. She then spotted Mark and zeroed in on him. “Mark,” she called in a high pitched voice, “you should go dance with Mom.” Julie ignored the painful blank look that flashed across his face. Grabbing his arm, “Come on. How many chances are you going to get?”
Mark found he was in a place that he was unable to cause a scene or tell his younger sister to buzz off. He walked over to where his Mother sat, and to the relief of the young man talking to her, asked her to dance.
The young man and his Mother stood. The young man headed toward the hamburgers and hot dogs and his friends. Mark and Toni moved in slow perky-circles on the hardwood floor of the living room to Frank Sinatra’s, You Make Me Feel So Young playing on the phonograph. Julie, smiling like Batman’s Joker, sat on the arm of a chair and took pictures with her phone.
“Bill, you should have picked a fast one. You know how much I like to be twirled.” Toni said to her son, mistaking him for her first husband, Bill. She moved a little closer, “Maybe we can skip on out of here and go to the lake. Our days by the lake are so dear to me.”
Kathy, who was watching, saw Mark stop. He looked pale. Kathy walked over and helped her Mother back to her chair. “Julie, come sit with her.” She then took Mark’s arm. “Let’s get a burger. What happened?”
“She thought I was Bill. He left after only three years. I don’t have any memories of him. You know that.” He shook his head. A storm of family history thundered through his head.
Two couples came in and looked at the LPs. They picked a Miles Davis album and let it spin. The kids began to dance. Julie continued to snap pictures unaware that the mood in the room had shifted.
Kate with Drew close by for support walked over and sat on the arm of the chair where her grandmother sat. She watched her friends dancing, with nice flowing movement to the vintage records. She held her grandmother’s hand. She felt a light squeeze of her hand and then it went soft.
Kate stood and gently placed her grandmother’s hand in her lap. She summoned Drew with her eyes, and the two of them went to find her father.
Griffin Chaffey, The Carriage Driver and Nuelle his white mare were waiting out front. He was out of the carriage looking at the yellow 1951 Chevy convertible and the 1951 Kaiser parked next to it. There were other classics parked on both sides of the street.
Moments later, Kathy, Julie and Mark were by their Mother’s side. There was a quirky smile on her face.
The youngsters went out into the back yard and ate and drank their beer and someone moved the record player outside. They all felt more comfortable in the fifties than the Ought-teens.
The young lady in the full dress and slip, wearing her hair in a wave ran to Griffin’s side. She saw Nuelle and the carriage, but wanted to sit behind the wheel of the yellow convertible first. The pain in all her joints was gone. Her skin was soft and smooth. The scar on her arm, she received in the car accident in 1970 was gone. She felt the sunshine. She climbed into the Chevrolet and put her hands on the wheel. She reached over and turned on the Philco. Sixty Minute Man, by the Dominoes, came on, and Toni’s head moved in time, and she snapped her fingers. She reached over and turned the Philco all the way up.
She jumped from the car. Kicking her shoes off, she danced in the grass in her bare feet.
Mark, Kathy and Julie followed by the entire party walked out the front door and watched this twenty-something dancing, completely charged; without a care in the world.
Not to be outdone, the youngsters joined in. A title wave of exuberance flowed over Julie, Kathy and Mark and soon the girls were moving to the music.
Mark stood frozen. He watched Toni, age twenty-something, dancing. Her skirt twirled up, showing off her legs. A smile beamed from her face. Music blaring; emotions running high; for the first time in fifty years, Mark stood crying.