Driving with the Top Down

In honor of my mom’s 94th birthday on February 28, I’m dedicating this post to her, mothers, daughters

ocean City NJ, Atlantic OceanI am here again, traveling along the same flat road, watching the tall green maples and oaks turn to scrubby, smaller bush and pine. What is it about my primordial need to return to the ocean – the Atlantic Ocean – every year?

As I breathe in the hot humid New Jersey air, a mixture of dirt, gas, grass, asphalt and salt water, I wonder if it’s just a childhood memory that needs to be rewritten and retold yearly.  After all, as a child . . .

“Why is he traveling so closely behind you?  How fast are you going?” my mother interrupts my slow, careful thoughts.

“I’m going 70 miles per hour,” I answer defensively.  Actually, the speedometer reads 69, but I know that will not satisfy her.  On this particular trip, we are traveling alone, my 85-plus mother and me, to Ocean City on a gorgeous sparkling Saturday morning. 

“That’s too slow,” she responds.  “The speed limit is 65. I go at least 75.”

I allow my eyes to leave the road to give my mom a small smile.  She is younger than me in so many ways.  Always has been, and I’ve always been older than she.

“You convinced me to let you drive my car,” she continues, “so don’t give me that look that says I can’t be a ‘front seat driver.’ ”

I just smile a little wider.  We’re enjoying ourselves in her little white convertible. The top is down; the wind is in our hair.  I decide to bite my tongue and not tell her I am behind the wheel particularly because she insists on driving 80 miles per hour when the speed limit is 65.

I look in the rear view mirror. A big black SUV is barely a foot from my bumper.  I’m in the fast lane and can’t move over to the right lane because of a string of slower cars.

“Back off,” I mumble.  I tap my brake lightly, but he doesn’t decelerate.

mother and daughter, at the beach, Ocean City NJ

A once-yearly tradition.

“Go faster,” my dear mother says.  Her short white hair is whipped against her head like a cap.  Her tanned legs are crossed comfortably in front of her, showing off light blue short shorts. Her white tank top accentuates toned arms.

“Mom, I can’t go faster, then I’d be right on the bumper of the person in front of me.  Besides, I don’t want to go faster.”  Why do I feel like the prim and proper old aunt?

She sighs and fidgets for a few more minutes.  Finally, I find an opening in the right hand lane, turn on the blinker, and begin to move over.

“Give ‘em the finger,” she demands.

 “What? Mom!” I respond in shock.

 “Come on, give ‘em the finger,” my pretty, demure mother, great-grandmother of six, insists.

 “No, I won’t.” I’m afraid she is going to make me.  At my age, I don’t need to give in like I did at 6, or 16, or even 26.  I smooth into the right lane and begin to relax until I see my mother push toward me and lean over my lap. She holds her face up high, as high as her five foot two inch frame allows, and she yells to the driver of the SUV passing us,

“J   E   R  K,”  in a long, loud, reverberating scream. 

I stare at this woman and then look at the face of the driver as he stares, too, mouth open.  He looks hurt, that this small, cute, but older, woman is chastising him so harshly. As he lifts his arms and hands in supplication, I begin to laugh, first gently so I make no sound, and only my stomach rises quickly in and out; then I release myself and laugh until it hurts.

“Why didn’t you give him the finger?” she asks when I finally stop.

 “Mom, you are too much,” I answer.

 Her expression is surprised, like ‘what did I do?’

 I think of the times our differences used to bother me: she was always short, cute, and feminine; I felt too tall, awkward, big.  She was the social one; I was the loner.  She was assertive; I stood in the background, watching.

 “Love you mom,” I say just as a big wheeler passes us noisily. I’m not sure she hears me, but she has a small, secretive smile on her elfin face.

Atlantic Ocean, sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, Ocean City NJ

Thanks to Jill Weatherholt and Annika Perry for their “re-blog a favorite post” idea. This post was first published in 2011.

 

 

88 thoughts on “Driving with the Top Down

    • My mom was serenaded by a hospice music therapist with guitar and song. Her wheelchair was almost floating with all the balloons, and her room was filled with yellow roses. She enjoyed it all. ❤ Thanks, Amy. xo

  1. What an absolutely wonderful post. Bet your pretty mom is thrilled with such a present. Pam, I have had a great time laughing whilst reading your post.
    Your “wicked” mom shouting at the guy who was pushy, telling you to exceed speed limits and then makes you worry too.
    Oh my, if I ever get to live that long I hope to do this too…..not the shouting, I am no good at that. Poor my daughter…..
    You both look so cute and relaxed on the photo, have a wonderful birthday celebration.
    miriam

    • You make me smile, Miriam. Yes, many of us hope to be feisty as we get old(er). I think we just become more of ourselves as the years pass. This driving event happened a couple of years ago. Now, my mom bosses all the staff around at her memory care unit, and they think she’s a hoot. 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness–you’re mom was something, Pam! I know this must be bittersweet now, but it is a great post. Thank you for re-posting. ❤
    (And now I'd love to head to the shore–I can say to the shore instead of to the beach to you. ) 🙂

  3. I love this line. “She is younger than me in so many ways. Always has been, and I’ve always been older than she.” I kind of feel this way about my mom. But, my mom is a whole different kind of “younger than me” than your mom.

    Your mom sounds like a real character. I’m paraphrasing, but you had said in another post that you are usually the quiet one among your friends. Seems like something you’re used to with Mom. 🙂 Happy birthday to her.

  4. I am grinning from ear to ear! How I would love to know your mother — and to have known her for the last 50 years. I see that you come by your spunk naturally, and you are both such good-looking women! I loved taking this little ride with you both — the sights and smells brought back memories to me too.

    • My mom would have shocked you at times, Elizabeth! She shocked me sometimes for sure. But over time, I got better at laughing at and accepting her strong personality. We are Mutt and Jeff, and most times have had a ball together.
      Now, I’m so grateful for the sweet smile she greets me with when I visit her. But then she’ll boss me around a bit, and everything is back to normal, despite her dementia. xo

  5. What a lovely tribute to your mom, Pam. My own father died when I was only 25, but my mother, happily, is alive and well. I’ve cherished the opportunity to get to know her as an adult, and later as a middle-aged man; as we’ve grown older, the complexity of our relationship — and certainly my understanding of the person she is — has deepened accordingly. I never got to experience that with my father, but I’m grateful for the ongoing friendship I enjoy with my mother. Milestones like your mom’s birthday are ones worth celebrating.

    • Wise comments here, Sean. Yes, I believe we see our parents as “non-people” when we’re children and teens. They’re just there to take care of us and ultimately to rebel against. 🙂 But then as adults, we view our parents in a totally different light. My mom and I became much closer once I reached my 30s and 40s and beyond. I love reading about the friendship you now share with your mom. Extremely special.

    • Thanks Carol. I wonder if you’re still on vacation? While I was on mine, I read your latest book The Longest Nine Months and just wrote an Amazon review. Thanks for entertaining me on my long flights! 🙂 I look forward to hearing which books you enjoyed reading on yours.

      • Thank you so , so much, Pam for your lovely review. ❤ I'm back from vacation but having a hard time getting back into the groove. But your question as to which book I enjoyed reading it was and is definitely The Perfect Nanny. Of course I was reading mainly the samples but when I got back home I bought it and it was no disappointment. Easy to see how she won the Goncourt Prize (French) for best novel of the year (2016). Other books on my list didn't pull me in as much as this one did. From the get go! Thanks for your support. ❤ xxx

  6. What a great story and sounds like your vacation with your Mom must have been wonderful. I like her spunk. I will be the same way. I don’t know about giving the finger anymore though. It used to be o.k. but now you don’t know if the person in the next car is packing so I guess I’ll have to tame that thought but I would call them a jerk…
    I hope you had a great time and I know you realize how fortunate you are to still have your Mom…I miss road trips and Fridays with my Mom.

    • Sweet, Cheryl. My mom’s spunk is still with her in her dementia, much to the amusement of people around here. She’s a force to be reckoned with. I understand your sadness of not having your mom for road trips and Fridays anymore, but I have not doubt she’s still nearby. ❤

  7. So fun!! Love the story about your mom! I can see that exact thing happening… only I am the grandmother and MY daughter is driving! LOL!! Hope you are staying warm and dry this week with that Nor’easter headed your way! ❤

    • We survived one Nor’easter, Courtney, and the second one has just arrived. I’m watching the snow falling outside my window as I type to you. Laughing at your comment about you and your daughter. Yes, my daughter thinks my driving is erratic, and I think hers is. At least we laugh as we vie for the spot behind the steering wheel. ;-0

    • I don’t think I could possibly grow up to be as zany as my mom. But I certainly want to learn her lesson of staying young and feisty and happy every moment of every day. So nice to have you come visit me here, Tess. 💜

    • Thank you so much for your words about this post about my mom and me. There’s something about our relationship that causes me to write stories about our time together. She is truly a one-of-a-kind woman. Even now as she suffers from dementia, her strong personality shows through. 💜

  8. Your mom is so cute. I loved this story about the two of you. Where’d your mom get the Gonzaga sweat shirt?

    Isn’t it strange? Our mothers and grandmas hair can turn gray, but their wild and naughty personalities don’t change. My grandma was a real character.

    • I’m hoping my grandkids think I’m a real character too. That’s why when I go to the grocery store with them, I dance in the aisles to whatever music is playing. They’ll probably just shake their head when I’m long gone and say “Madre was different, for sure!” 😏 My daughter went to Gonzaga for her undergraduate degree. Do you know of the University?

    • Thank you, Sue. She had so many balloons attached to her wheelchair that she almost flew off into the sky! It was a good birthday for her. It’s hard to believe that the story happened just a few years earlier. I like to read my stories to her and watch her face light up. 💚

  9. Happy, happy, birthday, Mum, and happy days to you, Pamela. Nice to see the spirit remains throughout. I know the feeling about age differences. How can that be? We just need to enjoy who we be. Enjoy!

  10. I loved being a passenger in the car with Mom the Speed Demon.
    You get your vim, vigor, and verve from her, for sure. Happy Birthday to Mom and good wishes for many, many more!

    • Many thanks, Miriam. I’m not sure my stories do my mom justice for her feisty sparkling personality. However, she is dimming now with dementia. I miss her as she slowly fades away. But this is part of the cycle of life, and I’m able to keep her alive and shining in my very true and real stories about our relationship. 💞

    • Thanks Roy. My mom and I used to walk miles together on that beach. She’s unable to do that now, but I always get a smile when I read to her our stories about our time together. 💙

    • I’m so glad you stopped by to read my latest posts. Always a pleasure to visit with you. Yes, that’s a fun way to put it. My mom has always been quite a “trip,” no matter where the trip is.

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