In 1960, my family moved from the city out into the burbs. As I was already going to junior high, 7th grade, it was determined that I would continue to attend that school, riding in with my father, whose job at the plant took him past the place every week day. After school, I would hang out somewhere until he got off work. Or catch a bus, or hike to where my mother was working in the city, and ride home with her.
One fine autumn morning, wind blowing and the leaves coming down, we were tooling down Greenwell Springs Road at a goodly clip in my father's 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne when, ahead of us and coming from the opposite direction, a woman decided to make a left turn. Apparently realizing she wasn't going to make it in time, she screamed, threw up her hands to cover her face, and stopped, entirely blocking our side of the two lane-road. There was oncoming traffic behind her -- a gravel truck, as I recall.
My father's options were limited. There was but one place to go if we didn't want to T-bone her car -- a shallow ditch to the right, and my father took to it.
I looked up from the book I was reading to the sound of "Shit!" saw the car blocking the road and the woman covering her face in it, and then we were off the asphalt and bumping along in the ditch. My father was always a careful driver, and he didn't stomp the brakes, but pumped them and we were slowing down and doing just fine -- until we hit the big round mouth of the concrete culvert forming somebody's driveway over the ditch sixty or eighty feet along.
The big ole Chevrolet stopped cold.
In those pre-seat belt days, I did not stop, but flew over the dashboard to spiderweb the windshield with my skull. Said skull being, fortunately, harder than the glass, though as a result, I did develop a nice goose egg.
I bounced back into my seat. Looked at my father, whose steering wheel hadn't snapped and saved him from the windshield. Big Detroit iron still ruled the roads back then, and they were overbuilt vehicles. Biggest damage to the car was the cracked windshield where I hit it.
I blinked, stunned, certainly in mild shock and probably on the edge of a minor concussion, sympathetic fight-or-flight hormones all a'rage, and started to snuffle.
"Don't cry," my father said. "Too late now."
I can't forget that last part. I think what he meant was that tears weren't going to help, that the party was over, but later I used to wonder: Did he think that crying earlier might have made a difference ... ?
No, I doubt it. Boys simply didn't cry in those days. They shook it off, whatever it was.
Odd, the memories that float up when the leaves start to fall and the first autumn rains begin ...