The things in life that make you happy: Beautiful-smelling flowers. A blue sky. Aromatic hints of chocolate and cinnamon wafting through the air. A trafficless ride home from the Island of Long. Watching a 2-year-old drink ice cream from a straw. Enjoying a really good movie. Listening to people sitting behind you talking about someone you know.
And, for me, one of the things in life that has always made me happy is the perfect parallel park. I am so high-maintenance it is often a wonder that Husband #1 hasn’t just left me by the side of the road with nothing but my Mickey Mouse backpack and my fake crocs.
I mention the parking issue with specific intent for this column in mind. In the past, I have introduced you to Goober, who was my 1980 brown Cadillac Sedan DeVille, willed to me by my paternal grandfather. Goober was the bomb. Fit five comfortably in the front, and even more could squeeze in the back. The glue holding the ceiling up started losing its powers, giving the inside of Goober a certain glamorous billowing curtain look. It had a cigarette lighter. It was classy. And it was a lot of fun to parallel park. Because it was the length of a minor league football field.
Doormen all over West End Avenue between 80th and 90th Streets came to know Goober, because they would help me park it when I went to visit my friend who lived there. If the maneuver was successful (which meant not hitting anyone in front or in back of Goober) it was the best feeling in the world.
Kids these days don’t know what it is like to park unassisted. And when I say “unassisted,” I mean without all the bells and whistles of today’s cars. No back-up cameras or front cameras. No warnings, beeps or buzzing. No self-driving situations. No screens or voices with accents telling you “warning, warning!” It was you and the car. You became one with your sideview mirrors. You knew how to line up the hood ornament with the curb.
You were a warrior, and the parking spot was your victory. Truthfully, if you found a spot in the city, it was a victory. Come to think of it, it still is.
I still remember by dad teaching me how to park. We always had bigger cars, so it was always an experience. I thought for sure I was going to fail my driving test because of the dreaded parallel park. But he helped me through it. He taught me a certain method of parking, the name of which I can no longer say because it is so politically incorrect (not racist, to be clear, just politically incorrect. My dad was the best, so don’t “cancel” him, please). In any event, I became a pretty decent parker. Not always on the first try, but eventually, and that is all that mattered.
This brings us to now. Son #3 was told that if he received a college degree, we would give him a car. Don’t ask and don’t judge. He got the degree. Again, don’t ask and don’t judge. He got my car. Husband #1 got a new lease, and I got a 20-year-old red Cadillac that my mom decided to stop driving a few months ago. I am not sure how or why I was the one to lose out in this deal, but that is what a mother does. She makes sure everyone has everything, and she gets the leftovers.
Truthfully, I love this car because when I turn on the ignition, with a key that goes in the ignition (I won’t tell you how many times I have put the key on the seat and then realized I needed it to start the car) it goes to the seating position that my dad used when he would drive it. And for a split second, I feel his presence.
In any event, I had to park the car in a very tight spot this week. It wasn’t even a parallel park, it was one of those spots that you had to make a really wide turn in order to successfully park the car without sideswiping the car next to you. I took a deep breath, adjusted my mirrors, looked up to the heavens, and said, “Dad, I can do this.”
And I successfully parked the car without any damage to anyone around me. I was so excited you would think I had just won a Pulitzer. I patted myself on the back and walked into the dentist’s office. And that is the whole story.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is wondering how it is almost July. No, really. How is it almost July????