Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Dawsonian Tradition - car rides to nowhere.

"The Subject Was Car-trips".

I think every family unit has a group activity that is liked by some and disliked by others. I don't care who you are, or where you come from...IT HAPPENS.

In my family, it was car rides on Sunday afternoons.

In the '50's, the Chevrolet slogan was "See the USA in your Chevrolet". However, we had an American Motors maybe the slogan for us could have been "Fall asleep and snore in your Matador". BLEAH.

Let me lay it out for you, folks.

It's Sunday after church. We've eaten and we're stuffed to da gills. One of the parental units would sneak the idea in over lunch.

Sometimes it was obvious, like, "Why don't we go for a drive?" This would elicit groans from me and the sister unit...*whine* "We don't WANNA go for a ride today. Why do we have to go on a ride?" *whine again*

Sometimes, blatant bribery was employed. Example? Sure...

I was (and still am) a sucker for ice cream. If the ice cream was good enough, you could get me to rob banks and beat up little old ladies while kicking puppies. My sister was the same way. So our parents took advantage of that fact.

"Let's go get some ice cream."

Nothing in the world is more pathetic than two girls trying to beat each other to the car for the chance to get some ice cream. NOTHING. There were more elbows and fists flying than at your average hockey game.

However, the whole ice cream thing was an elaborate ruse cooked up by the parents to get us in the car and on the way to God knows where. For years, my sister and I were convinced that it was against the law in Washington County to sell ice cream so that's why Mom and Dad took us all over Hell's half-acre. PLUS, no ice cream to show for it.

So there we sat, in the family four-door sedan. Now, the parents were generous in the sense that we were able to take things with us to keep us occupied (e.g. books, crayons, drawing pads, etc.). We created two little nests in the back seat with an invisible yet very important boundary between the two of us.

OF COURSE the boundary was crossed. That's part of the process. We'd be quiet for a little while, and then the grumbling would begin.

Ruthi: "You're on my side."
Sudie: "No I'm not...YOU'RE on MY side."

Ruthi: "Uh - NO. That's not MY book...that's YOUR book...meaning it belongs to YOU. Therefore, you're on MY side."
Sudie: "You're such a bossy butt anyway...I'm NOT on your side."
Both (in unison): "MOM!!!!"
Mom: (angrily, shrill) "BE QUIET and WATCH the SCENERY! It's a BEAUTIFUL DAY, DAMMIT!"

(NOTE: The only thing that changed as we got older were the accessories we'd pile into the car...from crayons to Walkmans...that's how it went.)

Now, you'd think that the parents would get wise to all of these issues and maybe...I don't know...remove "rides" from their collective agenda.

Oh HELL no. Not in a gazillion years. Why? Two reasons:

1. The whole "ride" thing was really just a mode of torture employed at their whimsy.
2. They (the two of them) actually LIKED rides.

Yeah, yeah...I know. It must be some "growing up in the '40s and '50s" thing, when gas cost 10 cents a gallon, and history books were written on papyrus.

We'd drive around on back roads and Dad would point out stuff to us.

"You know that field over there? That used to be where So-and-So farmed, and Grandpa Dawson accidentally broke So & So's foot while backing up the tractor." (That event didn't REALLY happen. This was created by me for dramatic effect...thank you, the management.)

Ruthi and I would sit in the back, looking at each other and asking, "Why do we care? Why can't we go to the Mall in Iowa City instead?" Our whimpers were met with, "By God, you're going to enjoy this ride if I have to beat you silly!" We were silly enough, thank you, and didn't require beatings in order to remain so. So we'd quiet down...for a minute.

One ride (out of all of them) was interesting. Before we moved into our ranch house on Hwy. G38, we lived in a two-story farmhouse on a gravel road. After we moved out of the house, the house itself was moved and remains on Hwy. 1 toward Brighton, Iowa.

Anyway, all that was left was an old barn (I think...memory fails me...), and it was overgrown with grass and weeds. The old place had some cool trees, though...including a weeping willow. There was also a pretty good-sized lilac bush that Mom promptly buried her face in. I didn't remember a whole lot about the home place, but it was kind of neat to go there and hear the stories from Mom & Dad. That was their first home together...they lived with Grandma & Grandpa Dawson until Ruthi was three, and then they lived in the two-story until I was six and Ruthi was ten or eleven.

All MAYBE the rides were fun...once in a while.

But for the most part, the rides were the "So and So used to farm there till he was busted for making counterfeit dollars in the henhouse" or something like that. BIG YAWN.

The final ride I remember being coerced into taking was when I was home from the first year of college. My boyfriend (at the time) had yet to experience the wonder of a family drive, so my parents automatically went for the weak link.

"How about a ride after lunch?" my father chortled while the five of us were dining at the Ainsworth Four Corners.

Ruthi and I tried to warn him...arms were flailing, useless hand signals were performed, etc.

He walked right into it. Practically dove in headfirst, he did.

"Sure!" he replied...Ruthi and I just rolled our eyes in unison. Then we socked him in the arms - Ruthi on one side and me on the other. "Do you realize what you've DONE???"
we said.

Of course, he hadn't.

Oh well...just another ride to oblivion.

And if you look to your right, this is where So and So had the collision with his tractor and a herd of sheep...