It was shiny red and had seats for a family of eight. Before SUV’s or mini vans and certainly before seat belt laws, station wagons roamed the highway. Ours had two bench seats with a third one way in the back that pulled down and folded flat.
That’s how my family rolled.
My parents learned the hard way that I was the car sick child. The longer the trip, the curvier the
road, the sicker I would be. It helped when I rode in the front seat so that became my assigned spot, perched right between my parents with a brown bag at my feet. Behind me in the second seat, were my three sisters, the older ones took the window seats with the middle sister, naturally, riding in the middle. In the very back were my two little brothers, seat folded down with a nest of pillows built in the middle of suitcases. I longed to ride somewhere in the back where all the laughing and singing came from, but nobody ever gave me that option.
I was stuck in the front.
On our last vacation in that red station wagon, I was in my usual spot. My father was anxious to get home and we made good time cruising along the turnpike through the middle of Kansas. By the time we reached Missouri, we were tired and testy and ready to get out of that station wagon.
Still we kept driving.
An hour outside of Kansas City, it happened. We heard a loud boom and the car swerved when the back tire blew out at 70 miles an hour. Dad struggled to get the wounded wagon off the road and when he did, he told us to stay put as he stepped out on the interstate with traffic whizzing by. From the front seat, I could smell something burning and when I turned around, there was smoke coming from behind the car. Dad suddenly jerked open my mother’s car door, looked her square in the eyes and said, “The car is on fire.”
She was already on the move.
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.