It’s a new year. My first wife still likes me. We’ve got a brand-new president. Gas prices are down. I’ve got new running shoes. My boys are healthy. The economy is so bad that it can only go up from here...
I don’t believe I have been this excited about a new year since 1963.
I turned 16 that January. Can you imagine the possibilities? My hair was dark. And thick. I could see with my own eyes. I woke up every morning with all the parts working. My memory was fresh and clear. I wasn’t bothered with those pesky income tax returns and I had no mortgage payments.
And it gets better! They gave me a car! Well, let’s be honest here. It wasn’t exactly my car. I had to share it with Mother and Daddy. And Leon and David Mark. I couldn’t just hop in and take off, “Son, regular gas is up to 24 cents a gallon.” And I had to be home by 9 o’clock. But I could “get it” once in a blue moon. You can’t imagine the power of sliding behind the wheel and backing down the driveway. Solo! I was in charge. You can bet your bottom dollar I went looking for a place to go.
No more hitchhiking or “borrowing” rides for me. It is amazing how independent and grown up you feel when you cruise by your old elementary school. I circled the town square ‘til my arms grew weary from turning right. I would sit for hours at Frank’s Dairy Bar. I wouldn’t dare go in. Pam had to come out and take my order. It was important that everyone saw that I was not in the back seat or riding shotgun.
“Kes, drive me over to Huntingdon. I’ve met this beautiful girl and she’s got a friend.” Squeaky Ridinger was five months younger and needed me on this particular late January evening.
It was 11 miles to Huntingdon. And my folks had not cleared that. Of course, they didn’t say I couldn’t go…
Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” was blasting out of the radio when I pulled up to the small brick house Squeaky pointed out. He was right; his girl was very attractive. Her friend looked like she could eat corn off the cob through a picket fence! Squeak was in hog (no pun intended) heaven. I was thinking Graylene and Vicki didn’t look all that bad if you studied them in the right light.
The girls directed us to the local hangout. We ordered a round of cherry cokes and while the group launched into a discussion on the Platters’ greatest hits, I was wondering if my folks were wondering where in the heck I was.
I’m not sure if you are familiar with the insides of a 1960 Chevrolet. It was huge. The front seat alone was spacious enough for a pingpong match. Leon used to hold dance contest in that thing. We’re talking Grand Canyon here. The steering wheel alone wouldn’t fit in most of today’s gas conscious machines. Squeaky and his good looking friend are in one tiny corner of the back seat, whispering. Miss Congeniality had slid over next to me and was helping me drive. We were wasting a lot of space! And it was getting late; I had to get this car to the house.
We were on that gravel road behind the aluminum factory and I was looking for the turnoff back to town. Squeaky had quit talking altogether. I was adjusting the mirror so I could see exactly what was going on in the back seat when we hit a bump or an alien jumped out in front of us or the road moved... You won’t believe how fast it happened. Before you could blink we went careening side ways down the big ditch that paralleled the road. My girl helped by screaming at the top of her lungs. Squeaky and Billie Jean didn’t seem to notice until we hit the culvert. Seat belts had not been invented at the time so both of them flew into the front seat.
My heart stopped. My life was over! I saw flashes of being locked in my room forever. Food was slipped in under the door. Daddy just came in to whip me. I would be on restriction for the next decade. Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity” was the only sound coming out of that car. Squeak was the first to find his voice: “Well, the radio still works.”
Incredibly, I had somehow managed in one brief evening to mess up my entire year. It had started with so much promise! And we hadn’t even gotten to February yet!
I am bound and determined not to let that happen in 2009. I’m going to dwell on the positive. I am going to “will” this to be a great year. I’m not letting anything or anybody get me down. And, to be on the safe side, I’m staying away from Huntingdon, and I am not allowing any ugly girls in my vehicle.