My family is very fortunate that all of our travels have been safe. In the many years we had traveled on the road when I was a child, we didn’t have any car wrecks or major calamities. That’s not to say we didn’t have our share of interesting mishaps while travelling, though they were always very minor and certainly laughable.
One day, as we were driving along some mountain passes in Colorado, my year-old brother, Ralph, was sleeping on my mother’s lap. Mom had pulled off his small pair of shorts to cool him down in the hot car with no air conditioning. She placed the shorts over his face to keep the sun off of him. As dad drove around a curve, Ralph’s shorts went flying out of the open passenger window. Mom screamed out but it was too late. The shorts were gone down the canyon, never to be seen again. Ralph spent the rest of the day in just a diaper until we could unpack some clean clothes for him.
It’s strange to think that my mother was actually holding my brother on her lap in the front passenger seat as we careened around the mountain passes. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, seatbelts and child car seats were not required. For almost eight complete years, Mom always had a baby on her lap whenever and wherever we would travel.
My first introduction to my brother was in the front seat of my Dad’s old Chevrolet. Just two weeks past my third birthday, my sisters, Theresa and Carol, and I were sent to stay with my maternal grandmother, Edith. It was agony for me. I was a momma’s girl. I missed her horribly for the week she was gone. I cried every night for my mom and threw tantrums continually at my grandmother’s home. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be with my mother.
I was relieved when my dad finally appeared one day to pick us up. He explained that Mom had had the baby. Baby, huh, what?!? What baby?!? I do not remember hearing any talk or explanation for my mother’s absence until that very moment.
Quickly, Theresa, Carol, and I were piled into the car to go to the hospital to get Mom. I remember sitting huddled with my sisters in the back of the car as Dad ran into the hospital. I remember Mom climbing into the front seat with this bundle in her arms. I remember leaning over the front seat while Mom settled herself in the passenger seat of the car, the bundle she carried now resting in her lap. Slowly, she pulled back the blanket, opening the bundle and there was my baby brother, Ralph. I heard my sisters cooing, “He’s so cute….” So I said it too. But in my head, I remember thinking, “This is it?!? This is why my momma had to leave me?!?” It just didn’t seem right, but Ralph had already made himself comfortable in the front seat on my mother’s lap (where I used to be) and that’s where he would travel for the majority of our journeys over the next few years.
We were always safe and secure there in my mother’s arms. There was only one incident that occurred while Mom was holding one of her babies. This was before my brother usurped my place. I was the infant nestled in my mother’s arms.
My father had an old car when they first got married. The front passenger door didn’t always latch and would fly open at unsuspecting moments. One afternoon, Dad went zooming around a corner, the door flew open, and Mom and I went sailing out of the car. By reflex, Mom stuck her foot out the open doorway and by some odd occurrence suddenly found herself standing peacefully on the pavement with her baby girl still sleeping in her arms. Mom felt as if she had been supported or carried to the side of the highway, away from the passing cars. Mom thankfully had a death grip on me and did not let go, so I remained right where I was, wrapped in Mom’s arms, and sleeping through the whole experience.
The transition from car to street had been so smooth, Dad didn’t even realize his wife and infant daughter were gone until he was halfway home. Surprised when he suddenly turned to his right and found an empty seat and open door, he turned around and retraced his path and finally came upon Mom and me on the side of the highway. Pushing open the passenger door for my mom, Dad was still stunned. “What the hell’s wrong with yous…Where did yous people go?” Mom just sadly shook her head and climbed back into the car sitting closer to my dad this time and holding on to me and dear life all the way back home.
So yes, for years Mom rode everywhere with a baby in her arms, always protecting, never letting us go.