I started out by typing up a draft of the stories, then I called and read them to Mama & Daddy and my sister Brenda. They helped me remember additional details and even shared some things I don't remember. I ended up with a ton of journaling, so I decided to use both sides of a 6x12 page protector for the stories and a 12x12 layout for the photos & memorabilia. Here's a look at the 6x12 pages.
Mama & Daddy bought a brand new Plymouth Horizon when I was 14-years-old, knowing it would be my car when I graduated from high school. I remember picking that car right off the show room floor. I pretty much learned to drive in that car, a red five-door hatchback with standard transmission.
The first day I had my driver’s permit, Mama let me drive to the mall. On the way we stopped at the Rec to drop off Brenda and one of her friends, who were riding in the back seat. I stopped in front of the Rec and heard the back door open then slam closed, so I took my foot off the brake and started going forward . . . only to hear the second car door close and realize I hadn’t waited for them both to get out and clear of the car. As it turns out, I ran over Brenda’s friend’s foot with the back tire . . . and broke it. (Ok, Mama said actually it just bruised her foot and maybe tore some ligaments, but I think the story sounds so much better if it was broken!) It would seem that this tragic event would have made me a cautious or fearful driver, but I don’t remember Mama & Daddy making a huge deal out of it. Mama took the girl to the hospital and they worked out the arrangements for the bills to be paid, but looking back I’m so glad they didn’t make this into something that would be a horrible memory. It was a terrible mistake . . . that I never made again, but I was spared a lot of grief by the fact that they didn’t turn a mistake into a guilt trip.
Brenda told me a story about a time before I had my driver’s license when her car was either in the shop or Daddy needed it for something, so she had to drive us to school in my car. She says I pitched a fit because I didn’t want anyone seeing her drive MY car! Mama pointed out that I didn’t even have my license yet, but I was still unhappy about Brenda being seen driving MY car. [I do NOT remember this incident and therefore cannot confirm if it really happened . . . although if I’m being honest, it does sound like something I might have done!]
I was at the Driver’s License Office at 9 am on my 16th birthday – I wasn’t waiting another day to get my driver’s license. I passed the test with flying colors, only losing six points on one right-hand turn for not getting over close enough to the side of the road first.
I was one of the lucky ones, having a car to drive to school and out on the weekends throughout my junior and senior years of high school. I tended to think that I could get away with anything, but somehow that never happened. Like the night I decided to teach Tracey to drive a stick shift – after hours of stop and go with her trying to learn to drive, it was time to head home. I got behind the wheel and turned right off the drag onto Twin City Highway. I said, “Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to drive like this” as I popped the clutch and sped off from a red light.
Unfortunately, there are lots of red lights on Twin City Highway, and I caught quite a few of them. Each time, I popped the clutch and sped down the road. When I stopped at the last red light before home, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Mama & Daddy behind me. They must have been out running an errand or checking up on us, I guess. So, I eased off the clutch and very safely drove to Tracey’s house. When I got home, I walked in and asked my parents, “How long were y’all behind me?” I knew I was going to lose my car keys for a week when Daddy said, “We’ve been trying to catch you since you left the drag!”
Another time, I returned home late one night and told Daddy that my car was making a funny noise. The next day Daddy went out to see what the problem was and came back in and asked “Did you win?” Mustering a look of innocence, I said, “Daddy, I wasn’t racing.” Daddy said something about there being a hole in the aspirator tube (whatever that is!) and asked again if I had won. “No,” I said as I hung my head, “I slowed down when my car started making that noise so I lost.” (I’m not sure I ever really had a chance of winning against that Ford Mustang anyway!)
It’s not really my fault that I liked to drive fast; it’s actually Daddy’s fault. Seriously! I remember being stopped at a red light one time, on the way to church, when Daddy pulled up beside me in the Ford Fairmont and starting gunning the engine – an invitation to race that I just couldn’t ignore. I don’t think I ever outran Daddy, but me and my four-cylinder engine sure did give him and his V8 a run for his money!
I was only in one accident during those years; late one weekend night, Carla and I were on our way home from a dance. Once again, we were headed down Twin City Highway, but this time most of the lights were blinking yellow (it must have been after midnight). As I came out from under the Hwy 73 overpass, a car on the access road ran the blinking red light and hit my car, starting at the front passenger side and continuing all the way to the back bumper. I came to a stop in the middle of the road! Luckily, some guy friends from school were passing by at that time and stopped. They pushed my car out of the road into a parking lot and started changing the tire while Carla went to locate a pay phone to call Daddy. When she told him that we had been in an accident, Daddy asked, “Who did she hit?” Carla assured him the accident wasn’t my fault and shortly after that he and Mama showed up at the accident scene. The other driver was cited and their insurance paid for the repairs to my car.
There’s a little detail in that accident story that I never shared with my parents until many, many years later. A few weeks before, I had lost one of my contact lenses, so I had to wear my glasses for a while until my parents could save up the money to replace the contact. I hated wearing my glasses, so I had put one contact in that night and had not worn my glasses at the dance. On the way home, however, I had my glasses on, but either way I could only see good out of one eye! Even though the accident wasn’t my fault, I never again pulled a stunt like that where I couldn’t see my best while I was driving!
Mama & Daddy had a little party for me at the house after my high school graduation and one of my favorite gifts was all the keys to my car! I was lucky to get to drive it most of the time, but it was still technically a family car during my high school years and could be commandeered by Mama or Daddy at any time for their own use . . . but that night it became officially mine and anyone who wanted to use it had to ask and borrow a key! Lucky me that Mama insisted that all her girls own their own car when they graduated from high school and set out in life as an adult! I’ve had my own car ever since that time, and I still enjoy driving, but I no longer race and have finally grown up enough to appreciate an automatic transmission!
I do, however, remember getting a warning for having a headlight out. I was on the way home from Beaumont late one night with some friends (probably Tracey, Liz & Carla). We had the windows down and were singing along with radio . . . and I was exceeding the posted speed limit when I saw the sirens flashing in my rearview mirror. I pulled over, sure I was getting ticketed for speeding, but the officer simply asked if I knew that one of my headlights was out. I replied, “No, but I’ll tell Daddy as soon as I get home.” He gave me a warning and we continued on our way . . . only to be stopped about 10 minutes later by another policeman! As he walked up to my window, I simply held out the warning I’d just received and explained that I hadn’t had time to get Daddy to fix the headlight yet. The officer laughed and said, “Looks like you met one of my illustrious associates already,” and sent us on our way. I woke Daddy up from a sound sleep to let him know I had been pulled over TWICE for that headlight and could he please fix it the next day!