Summer 1986. Horns honking behind us, Mom at the wheel, flustered. Cate, alert new teenager who might have saved Mom from herself, is not there. Chase, Curt, Heber, Chad, all there, being ten, being five, being three and one, give or take a year, it’s all a repressed blur I’m trying to retrieve but also keep somewhat at bay, forgive me. The point is that I AM THE ONLY PERSON IN THE CAR WHO IS COOL. Correction: no one in the car is cool; but I cling to the delusion to ward off complete despair. (As proof of the delusion, I fully expect to meet some gorgeous California girl that day at an impossible moment when I will not be with or near my mom, as if that is the only hindrance, and go home with a phone number.) We epitomize all that is not cool: first, a large family with young kids trying to enter a very upscale mall in Beverly Hills, at a time when the Beverly Hillbillies still draws an audience; second, we are doing so in a Suburban a/k/a MORMON MOBILE—picture a minivan, but much bigger and with no other minivans on the road to provide anonymity, especially here on Rodeo Drive, where it is by a wide margin the biggest non-industrial motorized transport craft within a six mile radius; third, IT IS NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR US, and we are forced to publicly punctuate that fact with a luggage rack that is half as big as the transport craft itself and, apparently unbeknownst to Mom, adds significantly to its height; fourth, Mom is driving, already a dubious proposition, but here one of two facts that have doomed us, the other being the previously discussed new height of the transport craft; fifth, and my memory is foggy, but I hear echoes of The Safety Kids from my mind’s soundtrack, at high volume if I’m not mistaken; sixth, we’re holding up traffic; and seventh, the reason we’re holding up traffic is that WE HAVE JUST HEARD A SCRAPING SOUND ON THE ROOF telling us the transport craft is too tall to enter the mall’s parking lot, and there is a line of cars behind us that cannot back up. We are making a scene, and we are stuck.
What are my options at this moment? Do I jump to the rescue? What do I say? She has fainted! The driver is unconscious! PLEASE SAVE MY MOTHER! Someone call 911! (Psst, Mom, lie down NOW!) Okay, thank you, sir. Now why are you honking? What’s that? Height limit? What about the luggage rack? Oh, you think we didn’t know that? We weren’t pulling into the parking lot! Are you crazy? What do you take us for? She turned here involuntarily, right before she went under! Food poisoning, I think. DID SOMEONE CALL 911 YET?
But this all comes to me later, outside of the heat and urgency of the moment. Here, in the heat and urgency, I slump down in my seat. One great thing about the transport craft: tinted windows. Sorry, Mom. You’re on your own here. Can’t help you. Don’t even know if I’ll admit knowing you.