My just-past five-foot mother stretched on her tip-toes to get a good look. “That? Why, Honey, no one’s gonna notice that little dent. I think the garage did a great job of replacing that windshield. I’m just so thankful that the big block of wood only broke the glass and didn’t crash through and kill you.”
“I agree with you completely, but the mechanic told me that the way the corner of the block dented the frame, they couldn’t guarantee a seal. In this climate—with winter being what it is in Eastern Montana—he said the moisture would ruin the inside of the car in no time.”
My mother walked around to the passenger door. After sliding across the bench seat, she reached up to feel the spot just under the dent. “Oh, I see what he means. It’s quite damp right here; did you notice that, Honey?”
“I’d have to say I didn’t reach up there, Mom.”
“Hmm? Let’s show Daddy when he gets home from work. I think he’ll agree with the mechanic that you need to trade in this car.”
My father agreed, but I didn’t want to look for another car just yet. We still had a lot of winter left and I thought I could pay more attention to that particular spot until I absolutely had to trade the car in. Even as a young adult, change didn’t come easy for me.
The following day, while driving home from the hospital and my routine spinal tap to check on the brain swelling thing, Mom and I never even mentioned the good report of Dr. Roberts*. The neurologist said things were stable enough now that I need not return for another spinal tap until I began to experience the awful symptoms again.
Her daughter’s health stable, Mom’s thoughts and chatter turned to her current topic of interest. “How about we just look at some cars? What does it hurt to look? Then you’ll know what’s out there and about how much you’ll be looking at for a used car to replace this one.”
“It’s too late to go today, Mom. We’ll go one of these weekends. Daddy’s working, so maybe we can go another time when I’m home, okay?”
“Okay, dear. We can look in Sunday’s paper and see what they might have on sale. It’s always fun to look, isn’t it? Your father might have some tips to pass along to us, too.”
Clearly, my mother saw the whole ordeal as a great adventure. I didn’t share her enthusiasm for car shopping, but I found it impossible to remain neutral in the face of her contagious excitement.
That evening, Daddy pointed out some things to check when shopping for a used car. He admitted that he used great caution when considering the purchase of a used vehicle, not wanting to “buy someone else’s problems.” He advised me to have a mechanic I trusted check any car I found interesting, reminding me of the names of two men in town.
The next morning, Daddy went to work; Mom and I left for church a short time later. Thoughts of cars had not made it to the forefront of my mind, but I don’t think they ever left Mom’s.
Coming out of my room, church clothes replaced by more casual attire, I found Mom stretched across the dining room table. I didn’t have to read the ads spread out before her; I knew exactly what they displayed. “Look at this one, Sweetie. This looks like a great price on this pretty car, doesn’t it?” Mom tipped to one side for me to get a better look.
“I guess so, Mom. You haven’t even changed your clothes yet. Don’t you want to get more comfortable before we start looking at ads?”
“I’ve got a great idea; let’s go to town and look at some of the lots instead of just checking out the papers? You really need to see a car to know if it’s one you might want, don’t you think?”
“Well, yes, I think so, but the guys here don’t really work on Sunday, Mom. We could—“
“I know that, but what about in Billings. I bet they wouldn’t mind if we just walked around their lot for a little look-see. We could go to lunch and then just pay a visit to a few used car lots. What do you think?”
I laughed. “I think that I couldn’t disappoint my little mother who’s chomping at the bit to look at used cars. Okay, let’s go. Who knows, maybe we’ll see that gorgeous, Latin hunk--Ricardo Monteban—sitting in the backseat of one of the cars.”
My crack referenced the frequently-broadcast television commercial for Chrysler’s new sporty Cordova. It boasted “rich, Corinthian leather,” and included the handsome actor sitting in the backseat of one such vehicle. Mom and I often joked about Ricardo being included in the purchase of a new Cordova.
After a tasty lunch, Mom and I drove over to the same lot I’d purchased the Chrysler Newport years earlier. We walked around the lot but nothing really jumped out at us. “Oh, let’s just peek in the showroom window.”
“They only have new cars in there, Mom. We can check out another used car lot. There are tons of them in the city,” I countered, knowing that I didn’t want to be tempted by what I couldn’t afford.
“Oh c’mon. Let’s just have a look.” Mom had already begun her fast-walk to the showroom windows. I ran to catch up with her.
“O-o-oh, Honey. Lo-o-ok at that, will you? It’s beautiful.”
The fire-engine red Chrysler Cordova sat in the center of the showroom. The sporty car had a white leather top, matching—you guessed it—the rich white, Corinthian leather interior. The white-walls of the four tires had shiny chrome spokes on the rims. Mom’s comment said it all. Truly, the car just screamed, I’m beautiful; take me for a ride.
“Yes, Mom, that’s quite a car, but its’ Sunday so none of the salesmen are working. Like Daddy said, you don’t buy any car without a test-drive and asking his questions. I’m sure it’s way more than I could afford, Mom.”
“Oh, Honey, Daddy’s questions are about used cars; this one is brand-new. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just look at that car!”
“Well, there’s two things wrong with it that I can see right off the bat. One: the color. I teased Doug and Cathy unmercifully about their new car looking like a fire engine coming down the street. Their car isn’t as bright-red as this one. Doug’ll never let me live it down if I come home with this car.”
“Oh, you’ll get over it. What’s the second thing? It must be better than that excuse.”
“Well, it’s plain to see. False advertising. I mean, Mom, do you see Ricardo sitting in the backseat of the car? If they’d deceive us about that, what else could be wrong under the hood, huh?” Mom laughed and slapped my arm in that I’m-not-joking kind of way. “Okay, all kidding aside, Mom. There’s no one to let us test-drive this car or talk deal. We’ve had a good time. Now let’s just go home and come look at cars another day.”
Ha, who was I kidding? My mother intended to get a ride in that bright-red car, even without Ricardo. Sure enough, Mom found the sign that listed the phone numbers of the salesmen. She picked out a name that “sounded like a nice man.”
The car both rode and drove like the dream advertised. The salesman made an offer my mother assured me I couldn’t pass up, and I signed on the dotted line.
Driving that beautiful car made me feel like a million bucks. Even now, I’m grateful Mom loved it enough to make it too hard for me to refuse it in favor of an older, used car. I enjoyed driving the car across America and back a couple of times in the eight years I owned it.
Not only did I never regret the abrupt signing for the car, but it remains one of my favorite memories of life with my mother. Mom lived life to the fullest. One year ago last month, Mom left these earthly shores to discover if all the talk of the joys of Heaven would live up to the advertisements. I suspect that she found it does.
* Name changed