I Want to Be Popular or When Bumper Met Water Heater

In 1964 we Americans were recovering from the horror of having President Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas. We were still embroiled in Viet Nam and American teenagers, mesmerized by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, were salty and sassy. The Ford Motor Company unveiled its first sleek sports car: the Ford Mustang, its naming possibly an attempt to lasso us back to less complicated times of wrangling and branding.

I was 14 years old and naïve. Cars meant nothing to me; after all, I was 2 years away from my driver’s license, I didn’t shave my legs, and boys were, well, let’s just say that they weren’t as important as my two pet rats, Pixie and Dixie.

One morning, before both the shiny dew had evaporated from our lawn and the milk bottles from the Cloverdale Creamery were retrieved from the porch, my Dad drove up with a  new forest green 1964.5 Mustang.

He parked it right in front of our breakfast nook. My mother wailed, “Oh Hugh, we can’t afford a sports car,” and then ran out screaming and threw herself into the front seat.

Steve, Cindy, Jimmie and I continued to stare out the window. Little did we know that having a Ford Mustang would elevate us to that State of Being all kids desire: popularity. Yes, in less time than it took for my mother to burn the toast, 20 neighborhood kids, many of them high school boys, became stuck to that Mustang like barnacles.

Dad was in his glory.

Yes, come by after school today and we’ll shoot some hoops. Sure, I’ll take you little House Apes for a ride.

He drove his old Buick to his dental office that morning and left the Mustang parked safely in our driveway, right underneath the basketball hoop.

When school let out, we all walked home, down Eggers Drive, about a mile. That day, on that mile, the conversation bumped in and out about Dr. Block’s new car. Jack, Chris, and Rusty bounced their basketballs back and forth on that Trail of Tears (that’s foreshadowing, Gang) to our block. Emulating the Harlem Globetrotters, they dribbled and drabbled, speculating about whether Dr. Block would take them for a ride. Dr. Block’s frisky daughter, Cheri, was among the trekkers coming home, concentrating on schlepping her Selmer saxophone, back to her room, the room from which she could ogle that 1964.5 Mustang. Cheri’s life was about to change. ( It feels comfortable to narrate this paragraph in 3rd person.)

Since Dad wasn’t home and Mom had taken her other children to the library, I ventured outside with a basketball. Like yellow jackets to hamburger, Jack, Chris, Rusty and other boys zoomed to our driveway.

Hey, Cheri, get the keys and move your Dad’s Mustang into the garage, so we can shoot hoops.

Hey, why not? I am a saxophone-playing girl, with a mini-body getting ready to sprout. I retrieved the keys, opened the garage door, entered the car, sat down on that rippled leather seat, put the keys into the ignition, and turned them. The warm heavy mufflers sounded their depth; I gunned the gas pedal; the engine was speaking my language—power, prestige, and popularity. Yeah.

Yeah. In a moment that I do not remember, the car lurched forward at about 30 miles an hour. I couldn’t find the brake. We (me, myself, and I) plowed into the hot water heater. The bumper liked the malleable water heater, and decided to embed itself deeply there. Water erupted like the geysers.

Always the problem solver, I earnestly tried to back the car out of the garage, but the bumper and the water heater were having an entanglement, so I pulled back and yanked the water heater right off the wall. Now water really gushed.

Funny about human nature. When I managed to extricate myself from the car, looking like a terrified toothpick of a girl, all the guys were gone. No where to be found. Safe in their garages.

Pragmatic, I shut the garage door, entered the laundry room (the hamster cage had been jettisoned off the inside washer and Butch was feverishly running on his wheel) and headed to my room to do my psychology homework.

Mom came home cheerfully with my three litter mates and screamed a scream that I hadn’t heard since I had been at the Center Theatre watching the horror movie, The Blob. She collapsed on our linoleum floor, crying to beat the band. Dickens licked her face.

As with Jack, Chris, and Rusty, my siblings disappeared like frightened bunnies.

We all waited, suspended in disbelief, for Dad to come home.

After his initial rage, he marched into my room, shut the door, and sat on my bed.

Cheri, why in the Hell (he never swore) did you do such a stupid, reckless thing?

I guess I just wanted to be popular, like Ringo Starr, I said.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, My childhood and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to I Want to Be Popular or When Bumper Met Water Heater

  1. Sassy Scrubs.com says:

    Too funny. Isn’t it funny how the crazy, sometimes brainless, things we do as children – and probably have gotten in trouble for -make the best stories when we’ve grown up? Thanks for this one.

  2. Dina says:

    Thanks for the great – laughing out loud – story! Also, thanks for the nice comment you left on my blog.

  3. Earnest Makes Run says:

    I’m sure Ringo Starr would like you’re story.

  4. Douglas says:

    Looking back now, it’s easy to chuckle about it but I am sure it wasn’t humorous to you then. I know the fear though I never wiped out a water heater.

  5. mylife says:

    what a great story. i was on the edge of my seat!

  6. tsblock says:

    Love that story. Thanks for sharing.

  7. derfina says:

    Ha! You WERE a child of the 60s!

  8. Sailing Past Maturity Straight into Senility says:

    As I keep reminding my kids, an tragedy happening to you will be a great story in six months.

    But I bet this one took a little bit longer to laugh about, right?

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Ash says:

    Amazing story!
    And I just love the line – “the engine was speaking my language—power, prestige, and popularity.”

  10. Christine says:

    I’m probably the only one who noticed this, but you had pet rats! I had 4 pet rats, the last of which passed on a few years ago. They were all hooded rats (white w/ some color) and their names were Chloe, Daisy, Gus, and Mattie. Rats are great pets.

  11. GrumpyDragon says:

    I laughed out loud and scared the cat! Thank you for a wonderful read.

  12. Peter_Applebaulm says:

    “House apes” — tee hee.

  13. Brent Festge says:

    I love the beatles.

  14. Holly says:

    My ex-husband, a dentist, also owns a 1964.5 powder blue Mustang convertible. Must be a dentist’s car! He would probably react to the same situation much like your father did (and I would have reacted like your mother). Great story and thanks for telling it.

  15. jwong says:

    What a nice way to start the morning! I was laughing all the way through the story.

  16. Chourou says:

    Ford symbolizes 20th century. Industrialization. the era people enjoyed a huge amount of production and consumption. And now we live in an drastically different age.Environmental problems that THE industrialization has brougt about seems to be getting more and more serious. Therefore, we should do something before facing a big crush, just like――uh, yes,just like the bumper of Mustang meets water heater in a garage! \(@ o @)/

  17. Dew Drops says:

    That was an awesome story!! Reading it was kind of like watching a trainwreck happening in slow motion!! You just knew there was no good coming out of it!!

  18. Cov Bean says:

    I’ve had 2 Fords. 2 models of Mondeo, brilliant. Subsequently Volvos and VWs, not so impressed. I remember our first ‘new’ car was a BL Morris Marina 1700 in white. My father had just passed away so mum chucked a tow-bar on the back and bought a caravan, too. Good holidays. Like many things, old cars remind you of times, places and people. My current VW Golf reminds me only of work. Ah well.

  19. Argentum Vulgaris says:

    What a wow story. I can relate to that totally. I rolled Dad’s car when I was 16 (1967)totalled it. You truly have a gift for the nostalgia trip. I try the same myself, but stand humbled.


  20. Bonnie M. says:

    Hahaha nice story! I really enjoyed it. Thanks.

  21. BongFlo says:

    greetings from the island of mindanao, in the philippines. was blog hopping blogs of note today. like your posts. if i may suggest, please do try also our philippine coffee, the one made in batangas and cavite here in the philippines.

  22. Aloha Rob says:

    Great story! I really enjoyed it.

    Aloha Kugs


  23. A Bump on a Blog says:

    What a great story! Would you give me permission to use it as an example of a narrative story in my College English class? I will give you credit for the story. I teach at a high school in Indiana. If you need more information, I’d be glad to provide it.

  24. Blogcytes says:

    You write good content.

    You could monetize your blogs and earn money by writing reviews for others.

    Check out http://www.blogcytes.com for more info

  25. Angie Ledbetter says:

    Oh, that poor car and you! I had a 66 Mustang once, and plan on having another one day. Nice story & blog.

  26. Small Footprints says:

    What a fun story! I could totally “feel” that experience. I especially liked how everyone disappeared … oh how fleeting is popularity.

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Small Footprints

  27. blackstartoday.com says:

    You have a wonderful blog. I’ll be reading often. Keep up a truely fantastic job.

  28. Quirky San Francisco says:

    Congrats on the blogs of note btw! I just found your blog through the list of blogs of note. It’s great that you allow for folks to use your writing for credit. Nice, thanks for that.

  29. Cov Bean says:

    Damn cars…….We also have an 8 year old black with white chest / feet Staffi-Lab cross bitch. Lovely dog. Temperament of an angel. I love her to bits. No pics, unfortunately. Not of her, anyway.

  30. Dots says:

    You are an amazing story teller!

  31. Suraphael says:

    That brought a smile to my face. Though I bet you weren’t smiling at the time.

  32. Glorybelle says:

    I HAVE to know what happened after you answered your dad’s question. Can’t wait to find out!!! That is the best story. I know how my dad would’ve reacted… and it would have been very, very ugly.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I liked the part where after all that had happened, you just went back to your room and did your homework. I don’t think Ringo could’ve been as cool as that …

  34. addhumorandfaith says:

    You are four years younger than me, so this brings back memories on so many levels for me. That was the year I graduated from high school and a friend of mine received a 1964.5 Mustang as a graduation present! She and her husband still have it, and it’s still beautiful. Some things just improve with age — and then there are Edsell’s. 🙂

    Another great story!

  35. carol says:

    ha! Love it!

  36. Omah's Helping Hands says:

    You have a great way of telling stories. I’m a child of the 60’s as well, in fact was born in 1960. Thanks for a great laugh and a walk back down memory lane!

  37. twelvekindsofcrazy says:

    I am just reading this now, omg, you are HILLARIOUS! The best blog of note YET.

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