I was once in a car, following my sister Cheryl and her family to a restaurant.
[In light of the many personal story embellishments that have been making the news lately, let me just say right up front, I’m not POSITIVE it was me in the car behind Cheryl. It could have been one of my other sisters…maybe Brenda…who later related the story to me. Over the years, I’ve taken it on as my own. I’m not even sure that a restaurant was the destination, but…]
Midway through the drive, Cheryl unhooked her seat belt, turned around in her seat and – as her husband continued driving – was seen yelling at her children and angrily rearranging the games and toys they had brought with them.
Upon arrival at the restaurant [or wherever…], I [or whoever…] asked what all the commotion had been about.
“They said they were CROWDED,” Cheryl said through gritted teeth, “I have two children! They each have a window! They each have half of the back seat!” To fully explain her justified anger, she added, “Don’t you remember church on Sunday???“
Well, of course.
Who could forget church on Sunday?
My Dad was the only driver in our family. Our car was a normal station wagon. We had a large family. Aunt Margaret lived next door, with her large family. The Immaculate Conception Church was in town, four and a half miles from our house. Mass was at eleven. We all had to get to church. It went like this:
In the front seat, Dad at the wheel, leaning against his door. Next to him, my mother, with a baby on her lap. Then Aunt Margaret, sometimes with a baby on her lap, too. That was it, unless Patsy “Doney” was visiting; if he was, he squeezed in, too.
In the second seat, in our Sunday finery: Brenda, Cindy, Sheila, Cheryl and Shirley. Cheryl was a little older than Shirley, but Shirley was a little bigger than Cheryl. There was sometimes a battle about which one of them should get the “bottom level” and which one had to sit on someone’s lap. Sometimes, we just crowded all five of us in side-by-side. On the next level, perching on the laps of those of us on the seat, were Gail, Mary, Nita, Robin and – when she was big enough to be there instead of on her mother’s lap in front – Joannie. Sometimes we’d have to squeeze in a friend or two, as well.
In the back end, sitting in a circle around the spare tire, were all the boys: Ted, Barry, Kim, Bobby and Greg. Sometimes Topper’s boy, Brad, if he had spent the night. Dave joined them after Amy was born, and took over the spot on Mom’s lap in the front.
We were never early for mass. We usually had to park on the side street, about a block away.
It was just as well.
As the doors opened and we spilled out from all directions, grabbing the hands of little ones while straightening our clothes and trying to keep up with Dad’s long stride, I’m sure observers would wonder what brought the “clown car” to the town on a Sunday morning!