Friday, June 6, 2014

"Doesn't 'expecting the unexpected' make the unexpected expected?"  ~ George Carlin

One afternoon Mom and Jackie, my little brother, and I were sitting in the car under a tree in the parking lot of the tall building where my Dad worked. With only one car in the family, this was an evening ritual, picking up Dad after work. 

As usual, Jackie and I were sitting in the backseat talking. And as usual, I, his big sister, was asking Jackie the same question that I asked him every day. "Jackie, what color eyes does Lorrie have?"

"She has pink eyes and greem lips!"

"Ha, Ha!  No she doesn't! She has PINK lips, Jackie!  Dogs DON'T have green lips! And you say 'greeN,' not 'greeM!" 

"Mommie! Terry says Lorrie doesn't have pink eyes and greem lips! She's laughing at me! Stop her! Waaah! Mommie, Terry's laughing at me now! Stop her! Waah!"

"Terry, stop teasing your brother! Stop it right NOW!"

"But, Mommie," I'd wail. "He doesn't even know the differece between pink and greeeeen!"

I could prove that, too! At "Parents Day" in Jackie's first or second grade class that year, Mom had told people the "cutest story," as she put it. "Jackie came running over to me during the class, and told me to look at the girl in the pink dress because he liked her! Well, I kept looking at the only girl in a pink dress in the whole class, but Jackie never even looked at her. He kept running past her, over to the cutest little girl I'd ever seen in a green dress. Then he'd push her, and then look over at me with a big smile on his face. Then he'd run over to me and say, 'Did you see her?' and I would say 'yes' and point to the little girl in the pink dress but that would make Jackie mad! Then he'd go over and shove into the little cutie in the green dress...  It took me a few minutes to realize that Jackie had the names of those two colors completely mixed up!"

Well, when I overheard her tell this story to a neighbor, it gave me new ammunition to fire at my brother on those afternoons in the car, waiting for Dad to come out of that big building and drive us home.

And every day, just before the time was ripe to give Jackie a poke in the arm and start a really gooood fight, we'd see people come around the corner of the big building, leaving work for the day. We'd look at all the men dressed in suits, and then see Dad. He was always the handsomest of all to me! 

When he'd get into the driver's seat, he'd ask the same question every day, "Did you two behave in the car today?" And Mom would have the same answer every day, "Oh Dick, they were fighting again. Tell them to behave!"

Well, one day Dad thought up a better solution to this problem. He knew that both Jackie and I LOVED "Superman." We had all the comics, and I'd read them all to Jackie. We even watched Superman jumping over a tall building on television! That building did look like a perfect copy of the one Dad worked in, come to think of it.

"Did I ever tell you kids that Clark Kent works just down the hall from my office?" he asked us one day. "You know, Superman!"

You could have knocked us over with feathers, just like the old cliche! Clark Kent!!! Superman worked HERE in Dad's building? HERE!

"Yes, he does. Didn't you kids see him just now? He walked out of the building right ahead of me! Too bad you missed him. You'd better keep a close watch tomorrow." Problem solved! I've always believed that my Dad was promoted from being a "rate engineer" to become the Director of Marketing and Sales at the headquarters in New York City because he was a brilliant thinker. He sure settled our fighting in the car in a creative way!

The best part was that every day, he made up a different answer for how we'd missed seeing Clark Kent, so it never got old for us. One day, when he came to the car, he'd say, "There he is! Oops, he's just going around that corner. See? Oh, you missed him." That worked on us for several months, it seemed. And one day in the backseat of our car, Lorrie even ended up having green eyes and pink lips, too!

Driving to Dad's office building every morning was a different thing altogether. School didn't start in those days until 9AM. Families actually sat at the table together in the morning and ate breakfast cooked right before their eyes by Mom, at least they did in our home. Afterwards, we'd all stuff ourselves into the car to drive Dad to work. Then the car became Mom's. She'd drop Jackie and me off at Betsy Ross Elementary School, and the day was hers until we walked home. You decide if it's better now... I'm not so sure it is...

This morning we were driving the same route from Culver City to Dad's office in Santa Monica, the very same route that we took every week day. Dad saw the light turn red about 1/2 a block away and was slowing down. Jack was sitting in the front seat between Mom and Dad, and I had the back seat all to myself. 

Crash! Something hit us so hard from the back that it thrust our car up over the curb, right between two telephone poles! How my Dad steered that car between those poles is still a mystery to me. If he'd wavered either way by a foot... well, it would have been even more grave than it was.

 Jackie was crying. Mom was saying over and over again, "What happened? What happened?" Dad was shouting, "Are you hurt? Is anyone hurt?" And I couldn't say anything. I just sat there.

It seemed a loooong time until the police arrived, but kids don't really have any true sense of time, anyway. Before they arrived, though, all sorts of cars pulled up around us, on the street, on the sidewalk, and in the vacant lot beyond. We still just sat there in our car.

I don't remember when or how the policeman came to open our door, but I'll never forget that siren. It still scares me today. The policeman helped me out of the back seat, and he said, "Little girl, can you raise your arms for me?"

I tried, and my right arm went right up over my head, but I couldn't lift my left arm. It wouldn't go any higher than a little below my armpit. 

"That's bad," he said. "Stay right here for a minute!" I watched him walk away. Then he hurried back to me, and said, "Little girl, come with me to this nice lady's car. We're going to let you sit in her car for a minute." 

I didn't want to. I wanted to stay with my Mom and Dad, but there were people all around them. They seemed to be closed inside a people circle, and then those people covered them all up, and I couldn't see them at all.

The policeman took my right hand and said, "Little girl, come with me to the lady's car." 

Her car was sitting behind and to the side of the car that hit us, the car I had to walk past. That car had all 4 doors wide open, and there were men inside. I looked. The 3 men in the front seat had closed eyes. They had thin streams of dark red blood dripping in perfectly straight lines from both sides of their mouths, and both nostrils. The man closest to me, as I walked by with the policeman, had blood dripping from his ear, as well. None of the men's eyes were open. It's a funny thing.. I can still see that today, as well as I could see it all those years ago.

Next thing I knew I was in the backseat of a strange lady's car. But the only place I wanted to be was with Mom and Dad, and even with Jackie. The lady said that everything was going to be alright, but she never looked at me. She only looked out the front window at the commotion. Boy, was that a lonely feeling. But I didn't cry.

Then the ambulance arrived, that white, screaming, looong truck that ground to a halt with white-clothed men jumping down from all sides. One of them set me free from the lady's temporary holding cell, and we went over to my father. They were assessing us. Dad had blood seeping down his forehead, so he was a candidate for the ambulance. I had a broken collar bone, so I was placed on his lap in the front seat of that ambulance. Mom wasn't hurt at all, and Jackie was fine and had even stopped crying. The police put my Mom and my brother in the back seat of their car, and they would follow the amblance so we all could stay together. It was clear that we were in the front of the ambulance because the men from the car that hit us were in the back being cared for.

Because I was so young, I don't have a real wrap-up for this episode. I remember my father telling someone that the accident had ocurred at about 7:30 in the morning, and all of the 5 or 6 men were "dead drunk." He said our car was "totalled." And, for weeks and weeks, I was taped to two pieces of board laid at right angles across my back with a sling for my left arm.     

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