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The Carriage Driver² - Forever '51

Updated on March 5, 2019

“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.

Source

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.

Source

“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.

Source

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.

Source

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.

Frank Sinatra sings on early TV

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    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Good morning Peg. I think we 'could not see' our parents, never imagined them as kids, or young adults struggling through high school. It is just not the view we are given.

      It is wonderful that you got your dad's military records. There is a lot of information there about where he was stationed and you can overlap that information with what was going on in the world at the time.

      I think it is very cool that you are so attentive to the girls. I am sure there is laughter all around.

      Have a great Sunday.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      This one called me back to read it again, this fine Sunday morning. I was visiting the girls yesterday and that always brings a feeling of nostalgia for those days past. I read your comment above about your sister and the photo of your dad in a high school football uniform. I discovered from the old military records I received that my own dad was on the football team, too. It sure puts them in a different light when thinking of our parents as they were when young. Thanks for the music and memories, Mike. Another wonderful story to remind us of the now.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello John. I also have slowed down here at Hubpages. We have all been following your exercise in launching a website for the many writers who are unhappy with this forum. I appreciate your visit and am wishing you much success with your latest challenges.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I am on a bit of a catch up, Mike. I have fallen behind on my hub reading...life has taken a busy turn. This was a delight to read and very touching. Good work.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Sha. It makes sense to me, if there is a heaven , it must be of our own choosing. So, have fun, pick the era, return to the shell that carried your soul at that time and continue the journey. Why not?

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      What a wonderful way to go. I'd love to be able to pick an era and return to my then self on my way out of this Earthly door.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Yes, Ann, one copy per continent! And I meant South Africa, but typed South America. yikes

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      A deserved worldwide success indeed!

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ann. Thank you for such a nice comment. What fun to have found something that you like to do and can trade ginger wine and other gourmet treats for space in a place that you wanted to visit. That must be great to be welcomed like that. It reminded me of 84 Charring Cross Road.

      Thank you again for picking up a copy of The Carriage Driver. I am becoming quite International, with copies in England, Sweden and South America. It is a very rare book, haha. Bookseller joke.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Sorry to be late responding to your question. Only just got back and had a severe lack of wifi whilst away.

      We were in Brittany for a week, then the Dordogne, then back to Brittany - lovely camp site where we are welcomed as friends and we help out with maintenance and cleaning! It's developed from a normal camping holiday where we paid, to a muck-in and have fun holiday where we don't! We just take 'English' things that they like and can't get in France, like Ginger Wine, Cheddar cheese, various biscuits and pickles! It's a great system!

      Paris is lovely but I'm a country girl so it's great to get around all their varied landscapes. We are lucky enough to have friends in several regions of France.

      By the way, I now have a copy of 'The Carriage Driver' which I'm very proud to possess.

      Ann

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Theresa. No worries. Everyone has become so busy these days. It takes so much energy for each of us to get through a day, or week.

      Somewhere, there is a picture of my Dad in a football uniform. I have asked my older sister and younger brother if they remember it, and neither have any recollection of that picture or him ever talking about those happy days. The fact that we (here anyway) never got a clear view of our parents as young people is very apparent. I tried to capture that here in this story.

      Thank you for the nice comment and staying with these stories. I appreciate the blessings.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Dear Mike,

      Well, I know I read this wonderfully penned chapter here and thought for sure I had commented but, obviously, it did not take then.

      What a different perspective we would have in seeing our parents in their youth! Being such a disease is so frightening to all concerned, the fact they are able to at least recall happier times, is comforting. I love the imagery of the twirling skirt and his mother's youthful legs exposed dancing.

      Peace and blessings always,

      Theresa

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Shyron. Yes, it is heartbreaking to see someone you know fall down the hole of lost memories. They seem to talk and act the same way, yet there is no retrieval system in place to send the right signals. It is painful for both parties. Yes, someday find the courage to write about all the good your Mom left in the world.

      Thanks for the blessings.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      3 years ago from Texas

      Dear Mike, this one is a heart breaker. It is so much like my mother, especially when she thought that her son was her husband. Someday I will write about mom.

      Fantastic story!

      Blessings always

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Ann. Good to know France is cooperating with your holiday plans. It is so conveniently located for you. Paris? Or some other place just as quaint?

      Enjoy.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      I think you're right. We didn't have global news and internet!

      Thank you. France is at least beautifully sunny this week, bar one day of rain.

      Ann

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ann. I hope France offered warm weather and a pleasant getaway.

      The 50's are usually portrayed as a more innocent time. I am beginning to believe that the populations just did not know what was going on all around them. But those are stories for another day.

      Enjoy your holiday. Thanks for the visit this afternoon.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      Gently potent as always, Mike. I love 50s stuff (mainly because I was born in '51) and you captured the 'full of innocence' era, as it seemed to be to me. Conversations with my sister, 8 years my senior, also make me realise how we saw the same scenes differently because of our ages. Great story.

      Catching up slowly; in France with rather unreliable wifi but back home early May.

      Ann

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg - I guess the lesson from both Aunt Louise and fictional Toni, is that we should all dance while we can. I am sure Louise has many a happy trip down memory lane on quiet Sunday afternoons.

      Recently, I asked my sister if she had seen the picture where our step-father was wearing a high school football uniform. She had not, I realized just how little we know about those around us.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      What a great read to start off a Sunday morning. I felt uplifted by this one, at the same time, sad and reminded of loved ones whose happier days were those on the dance floor. Louise at one time won trophies for ballroom dancing in Fred Astaire tournaments, internationally.

      I loved the character realizations as the story progressed and the finality of seeing one's parent as a young and vibrant person who still thinks of themselves as being that special age. Thanks for sharing this gifted story.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello shanmarie, what a nice comment. The names in my stories here are simple. They are simple people living good and simple lives. Isn't it nice to imagine that once we finished with this portion of our journeys that the next leg we are given back vitality and a rest from this toil.

      Thanks for staying with these stories.

    • shanmarie profile image

      Shannon Henry 

      3 years ago from Texas

      These stories of yours truly are special. The name of the character hit home for me in this one. What a way to imagine someone before passing, young again, if only in mind.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Bill. I am sure you are right. Each and every person has experienced so much, have traveled many roads that we are not aware of and we can never really know them. We just see who they are at the moment. Sometimes that is good and other times not-so-much.

      Thanks for the visit over to this corner of hubville.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Martie, I don't know where I heard this, but I have the idea in mind that we do get the body we felt most comfortable in back to use during the next leg of our journey. All the scars are healed and all the hurts are cured. As for vintage cars, they are a flashback to our youth, so I also enjoy watching them on parade. There up until a few years ago was an A & W Root Beer Drive-in still open near here. On Saturday nights all the vintage car people/restorers would head over to the Drive-in for icy root beer floats. Thanks for visiting 1951 with me.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm reminded of that saying that everyone has a bestseller inside of them....and that may very well be true. We are all fascinating people with great stories to be told...and you are a great storyteller, my friend.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      Another heart-touching episode of The Carriage Driver 2! Growing older and weaker is surely one of Life's biggest tragedies. What if we could age until 30, then stay 30, beautiful, healthy and strong for at least 100 years before moving on to the Perfect World?

      I love vintage cars!

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Ruby – So, you like Elvis. I may have known that. And he appreciates all the love. So, glad you are sharing this with your sister. Frank is admired by many. He had quite the career. I just read that he made $93,000 per week in the 50’s at a peak in his career.

      I think it is easy for children to be blind to the fact that their parents are human, and in many cases all too human. I am sure Toni will find peace.

      I appreciate you.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Becky – I must have been writing fiction too long. I can see Dennis as he lies there transferring all his courage, fortitude and love over to his grandchild. It is quite a remarkable scene.

      Thanks for the nice comment. Yes, joy can be elusive.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Your story about Toni could be a story of many I've known who lived long enough to meet the dreaded Alzheimer's Disease and in some cases their children were quick to make confused judgements. I'm glad you gave her a party that she could return to her younger self and dance with glee. I am also happy that Mark finally cried. He must have realized he could've been closer. Just as Elvis is my main dude, Frank is my sister Mary's dude. She will love reading this. I always print a copy for her. Thanks for another wonderful story!!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      3 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      So many hurts pile up in people that they forget to feel the joy. I am so happy you have pictured some of the joy, after the pain. Beautiful story today.

      We took the baby up to visit Grandpa Dennis yesterday, and they both lay on the bed playing with each others hands and talking. Such a vocal baby, and he has discovered his toes. Such grunting trying to reach them.

    • mckbirdbks profile imageAUTHOR

      mckbirdbks 

      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello mar. I think many people have a 'place' where they at one time were happy. Be it childhood, or with a special person. Perhaps sometime before they began to feel defeat, or pain or betrayal. This story tried to capture that time. The son, only knew a women that was filled with pain and anger. Anyway... Glad you found depth here. Alzheimer and Dementia victims, I think, live in the past, likely during an easier period in their history.

      I appreciate your continued support of this series.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Mike,

      This story hit a personal chord with me - oh heck, they all do in one way or another.

      I'm reminded that everyone has a story, a past, a reason (or hint) as to what presents in the elders in our life. I'm grateful Mark got to see this side of Toni - even if in her death.

      Your stories always hit me deep in the heart - thank you. Hugs, mar

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