The Best Ride

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Our first family car was a sleek-looking import—an American Hudson. Photographs of this new wonder depict our family standing proudly in front. Everyone except me—an unsmiling eleven-year-old. It was a fancy two-tone number, but I hated it. It is the only car in which I have ever felt unrelentingly and horribly car sick. Given Dad loved it so much, it’s surprising we didn’t have it for very long, but I was immensely pleased to see it gone.

Before its arrival, our mode of transport was either by bus, train, or Dad’s motorbike. Mum’s early memories were sitting on the back and holding on tight, frozen in her best dress and heels while flying into the city to go to the movies. My memories, and they are some of my absolute best, were riding in the huge side car. Mum would line it with soft blankets, and my brother and I sat deep within its bowels, often eating fish and chips while the outside world whizzed by unseen. We felt cosy, warm, and very safe, especially late at night as we zoomed along with lights flashing  past and the wind whistling above. It was always exciting, but also, just a little bit magical for it was not every day we got to ride in the sidecar. We never popped our heads out—it was much more fun staying hidden inside our secret little cubby on wheels.  

When it was time for the Hudson to depart, our next family car was a Ford Falcon Station Wagon, and oh, how we loved that car. We had the happiest of times going places in that vehicle, in the days when there were fewer cars on the road and it wasn’t against the law for three children to sleep in the back. Some years later, when my brother was a car-mad teenager with a licence, he and Dad put their heads together and decided it was time for a new car. Mum and I literally wept as our beloved station wagon backed out of the driveway heading to the car yard. If you have ever wanted to drape yourself emotionally over an object, you will know how we felt—saying goodbye to that car was a heart-wrenching moment.

Being the sensible girls we were, Mum and I envisaged they would come back with a sensible car—beige or white perhaps with four doors, but we were in for a shock. In drove a bright red, two-door Holden Monaro with a garish black stripe down the side. Dad and my brother were beaming, Mum and I were cringing. Neither of us ever felt happy or safe in that car. It was loud and obvious, and we disliked it immensely.

Looking back, the two boys in our family should have looked after that Monaro better given its worth in later years, but they did not. It eventually went the way of all cars over-revved by reckless young drivers—to a mechanic who could fix it. That was my last ‘family’ car. When I was twenty-one, I left for wider pastures while it still sat in the driveway.

Later, for Dad, came a practical Mazda hatchback, which he drove for many years till one day, it blew up. He was distraught as it was beyond repair, but the family was hugely relieved. By then, his driving had become so erratic we said a little prayer whenever he got behind the wheel. It was the perfect opportunity for him to retire from driving, but sadly for Dad, the end of an era.

Our family cars were an integral part of our lives, representing not only how our family evolved over the years, but the different aspirations of those who had a hand in purchasing them. They were either loved or loathed by various members of the family.

As for me? The worst ride was the Hudson, the happiest ride was the Ford Falcon Station Wagon, the most embarrassing ride was the Monaro, but by far, the best ride was in the magical sidecar of the motorbike.  

© Inara Hawley 2020

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