Friday, February 17, 2012

Saint on Wheels?

Part of the reason behind this blog, as I said in my first post, is to create a space for myself that will serve as a tribute to my mom.  Loretta Lord was something special; she left her mark with everyone that knew her.  She made people's lives just a little brighter.  I can't recall how many times I have heard just how inspirational my mother was.  "Saint Loretta!", many of her friends would exclaim.

I can't explain why exactly, but the idea of my mom as a Saint royally pisses me off.  Yes, my mom was a strong woman.  She was kind, empathetic and loving.  And she embodied grace in a way that only those who are truly spiritual-- those who channel a divine force, can.

Yet, Saint?  No.  She was flesh and bone, and well... my mother.  She was absolutely without a doubt human, with same faults and foibles that all humans possess.  

One of those human quirks of my mother's came in the form of bad driving.  She was infamous among family and friends for the scrapes she got herself into when she was in the car.  Picture the little blue haired woman who could hardly see over the steering wheel.  That was mom.  It's a cliche and over-exaggerated visual, but it gives you the general idea.

Of all the driving horrors I have heard over the years, it's hard to know where to begin.  There was the time when she took my oldest sister on her first date with her beau (now husband) to the roller rink.  Traffic circles were very common in those days.  Mom couldn't maneuver circle traffic properly and wound up going around multiple (at least 10-15) times before finally getting off at the right stop.

There was the time when she managed to drive over a cement parking barrier, leaving her car like a helpless beached whale in the supermarket lot.  My brother-in-law came to her rescue and managed to save the beached car and my mother's hide.

There was the time when she hit the iron gate at the Old Rutgers campus as she was pulling through on her way to work.  Not only did she cause damage to the car, but she created a long line of agitated professors and administrators late for their morning classes.

After my mom passed,  I inherited her car for a brief period.  It was a maroon monstrosity-- all decked out in bumper stickers publicizing the Democratic party.  Parking the car felt like docking a boat.  Accelerating to proper speed took a good five minutes; braking took another five.  The spirit of my mother was alive and well in that car, and I was channeling her (awful) driving skills.

But, I have to admit, I loved every minute I had in that car.  I've come to realize that the most infuriating traits of our loved ones are often the ones we come to miss the most.  When we love, truly unconditionally, we love all the quirks, flaws and imperfections just as much as we love all of their goodness.

The maroon tank blew a gasket a few months ago.  It was not worth repairing.  I hate to admit just how much I miss that car.  The car that I'm driving now is zippy, fun and much more efficient.  But, it lacks something.  It lacks the soul of my beautiful, imperfect, non-Saintly mother.  And for that, I will shed a few more tears in mourning.


  1. In the days before car seats, I was not allowed to sit, I had to stand behind her as she drove with my chest against the back of her seat my face next to her ear. In case she stopped short so that I would not fly through the glass of the windshield.I do not remember wanting to be anywhere else but right behind her. She drove me to the tire park, to the big slides at Johnson park and to make Monty the bear dance. We went to twoguys over the singing bridge. The thrift store. She drove me everywhere, I was never afraid.

  2. Mommy's driving made for a fun car game. We would count the number of cars that would pull around her and pass.

  3. Thanks for writing these Colleen. I love it. My most embarrassing moment with Mommy's driving was on the way to church. As you know the streets around our house in Edison are very narrow. Cars always need to pull over to let another pass. Mommy moved to the side of the road to let another car pass. She actually hooked her car to the bumper of a parked car. I was about 14 or 15. Needless to say, as the owner of the car came out of the house and started jumping up and down on the bumpers. I just sunk very low in my sear. Low enough to ensure that anyone looking to the car would not see I was in it!

  4. I shared with Mike this morning after reading this how Annie and I would sit in the back of the station wagon and take bets on who would pass her. My Mommy story is when we dropped Dad off at work, she got lost on the way home and we wound up in Marlboro. This is during the days when Marlboro had the institute for the mentally challenged. I told her that it made perfect sense we would be lost there. She got a kick out of that. A 15 minute ride turned into at least 2 hours!

  5. We all benefited from Mommy's driving skills. If you day we set out to go North on the Parkway to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Newark. She somehow got on going south and we spent an amazing day in Keansburg. Maybe that was her plan right from the beginning. Our Mom might not have been skilled in driving and directions in a car, but she sure had the ability to guide her children in the right direction. I do call upon her each day for direction in my daily life. Miss you Mom!

    Thanks Col for reminding me of this.