She was born in 1954, the only brand new car my parents ever owned. Despite being mint green and boxy, she was a lemon.
After a few years, she was retired to the back lawn behind the double row of pine trees, which hid her from the casual observer's view. Still, the family knew that she was there out of sight like some crazed auntie hidden in the attic. She had behaved rather badly after all.
She had been "set aside" because my father had a new job that came with a pink station wagon, I think it was a Plymouth. It was also a lemon, but that's not the point of this story.
Fast forward a few years and Dad had another job at the paper mill right in town. Since the pink Plymouth was out of the picture, the mint green Mercury was back in. No need for a truly dependable car as my dad could hitch a ride, if necessary. Sometimes it was. (My father was a weekend mechanic back in the days when engines were much simpler affairs.)
I remember how embarrassing it was. Though I was all of eight years old, I didn't think "our" car looked very much like the 60s models my friends' families had. Further, the pine needles and pine cones that blew out of her underpinnings here and there wherever we went did not help with my assessment of our situation. How truly embarrassing!
In the winter of 1962, a few days after Christmas, a blizzard hit. My father announced over breakfast that he was putting on the tire chains so that we could go tobogganing over the unplowed roads. This was a first for me! "Call the Neighbors," Dad bellowed as he left the house, "see if they want to come, too." Oh boy howdy! A party!
We all piled into the Mercury and packed in tight. There were seven of us: my mother, father, and sister and three of our neighbors—the mother and two sons. Their dad, perhaps wisely, stayed home. The adults were in the front; we kids were on our knees in the back watching out the rear window as the toboggan trailed behind us.
My dad took the first left, which would eventually take us over hill and dale in a big circle back to our house. We came upon the snow plow right off. My father started flashing his lights and honking his horn. The plow stopped. My dad hopped out and had a brief conversation with the driver and then hopped back in the car and we inched past the plow into unplowed territory. Dad explained that we would get a little ahead of the plow and then we could take turns being pulled on the toboggan.
And thus ensued high fun and drama. After the snowplow, we never saw another car, which I am sure is the safest thing and part of God's protection over us. One of the mothers was always on the ride so that she could scream, "Get off!" whenever the toboggan was going so fast down a hill that it might catch up with the car. It was a Winter Wonderland to the tenth power with the added excitement of danger.
Too soon, we were back home having some very calming hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. It had all been perfectly exhilarating. We never did it again.
Still, when I think about the 1954 Mint Green Mercury, I see her from my toboggan perspective looking up at her shiny chrome bumper as she chugged up a snowy hill, her tire chains rattling and with the sound of laughter in my ears. I think my face looked a lot like this: