Mom did goofy stuff but loved us fiercelyWhen I was still a young boy, I sat in the passenger seat of our four-door Nash as my mother drove it for maybe half a mile down the middle of a ditch on the way to Kistlers’ farm. We were heading up the road from our farm to take lunch or something to people working in the hay fields. My mother had a healthy respect for the accelerator, so we weren’t setting any land speed records in the bathtub-shaped sedan.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
When I was still a young boy, I sat in the passenger seat of our four-door Nash as my mother drove it for maybe half a mile down the middle of a ditch on the way to Kistlers’ farm.
We were heading up the road from our farm to take lunch or something to people working in the hay fields. My mother had a healthy respect for the accelerator, so we weren’t setting any land speed records in the bathtub-shaped sedan. I never did hear exactly what happened to send the car off the roadway and into the ditch. I was minding my own business — daydreaming, I suppose — when I felt the car tilt and heard the splat-splat-splat of weeds hitting the underside of the Nash. I looked out the passenger window to see the right bank of the ditch, just a foot or so away from the side of the car.
I turned and looked through the windshield and saw the ditch stretching out ahead of the hood ornament. Dust from the scattering of sweet clover in the ditch rose from the front of the vehicle. So far, I hadn’t said anything, and neither had my mother.
I looked over at her. She had both hands on the steering wheel — 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, which would have been reassuring if I’d been older and knew that was textbook positioning. Her eyes were glued to the windshield, and she was steering a straight line between the banks. After, as I said, most of a half mile, she took her foot from the accelerator and let the Nash coast to a stop.
Somebody in the field must have seen us coming, because my dad showed up right quick. He got the door open far enough to squeeze in beside his wife, and he piloted the car carefully up the bank and onto the dirt road.
I didn’t hear whatever conversation the two of them had about the incident. I did hear a couple of the other folks who were working in the field. They were snickering a bit, suggesting that my mother had panicked and frozen at the wheel.
Well, maybe so. I suppose it looked that way from where they were standing. From where I sat, it looked like she might have been doing the smart thing. Looking back, I’m surer of it than ever. I’ve read a lot of accident reports in my professional life, and I’ve seen a lot of times when a driver crashed because he tried to over-correct when his vehicle was headed toward the ditch. My mother was careful enough not to over-correct and try to jerk the Nash back onto the road. She was so careful, in fact, that she didn’t try to change the car’s course at all, not for 800 yards or so until she was absolutely certain there was no chance of a roll-over
If that last paragraph or two sounds like spin, perhaps it is. With Mother’s Day just a day away, I hope I can be forgiven for putting a silly moment from my childhood into the best possible light.
My mother did a lot of goofy stuff.
She encouraged a family trip across the continent to the Pacific Ocean and then tugged on our arms every time we tried to tiptoe close enough to the shoreline to touch the damp sand where the breaking waves just reached.
She woke from naps to run outside into the farm yard and yell “California” when she wondered where her youngest son, Kevin, had gotten to.
She bought dozens and dozens of pairs of shoes that were still in the boxes when we finally cleaned out the house in Chamberlain. The shoes were in her closet next to dozens of souvenir salt-and-pepper shakers from every tourist stop we ever visited on every trip we ever took.
But she loved each of her kids fiercely. She expected us to do the right thing, to be kind to animals and to be respectful of other people. She didn’t like it when my dad bragged about one of us in public, but I always knew she was proud of each of us — even when we sometimes didn’t deserve it.
She stayed around for 60 of my years. On Mother’s Days since she’s gone, I always realize that wasn’t quite long enough.