Extreme anxiety can be caused by living with a mother who viewed an automobile as an item of entertainment rather than a convenience.
The whispering pink giant with a monster front was her 1958 pale pink Cadillac convertible. This behemoth had exceptional importance in her life, as if to say, “I’m moving you, — period.”
My mother was also the only driver in the family and would have lain before an 18-wheeler rather than wear eyeglasses. She said she had “young eyes.” So her visual perception remained fog-like at all times.
My role as a child was to sit patiently in the back seat behind her gold-sprayed coiffed hair and pray. Pray to arrive at whatever destination we were headed.
In retrospect, her hair was the future airbag, as we know it today, so I was quite safely equipped. This lacquered gold-sprayed hair would act as insulation should impact be extreme. My grandmother had the pleasure of the assigned passenger seat. Luckily, her tightly woven platinum wig protected her as well. Only I, with a few threads of a ponytail, was at risk. And also my quiet bald father, always absent of any verbal activity, sat in the back with me. We both placed our safety into the sheathing of the wigs in front and simply closed our eyes.
The only necessary items of interest on the dashboard to my mother, Lillian, were the cigarette lighter and radio. The lighter for firing up Viceroy’s and the radio belted out show tunes. Traffic lights were non-existent for mother. Her denial of the color red combined with a clinical diagnosis of narcissism and an angry temper was a recipe for disastrous, unexpected consequences.
These consequences were not only reserved for the family, but strangers had the pleasure as well. Particularly those waiting at bus stops or those in the wrong place at the wrong time. When the pink caddy suddenly stopped thirsty for gas, hernias awaited those unsuspecting creatures on the street that were asked to push.
Wide as a flat-screen plasma TV, the dashboard’s bells and whistles were useless items for my mother. Climate control — no problem. Her raging temper kept the A/C on the highest setting. Passenger compartments capable of seating 4 adults served as a boudoir overflowing with Mardi Gras costumes, fabrics, and sequins. There was still plenty of room for adults, dead or alive.
Big, bold and pink, this vehicle only owned the buttmarks of my mother in the driver’s seat. Hair big as Texas, her driving rules were indelible: road shoulders and neutral grounds became a lane; people were to be completely disregarded; any lane is good; if you miss an exit, don’t worry — just cut across lanes of traffic and drive over the divider. Remember never use turn signals, totally disregard oncoming traffic, and most of all, have an intimate relationship with your horn.
Her young eyes piercing at the road, she had places and appointments, people to see, schmoozing, meetings organized around Martini lunches. These were all the driving force behind the pink Cadillac. It was her ambitious source of energy that caused the pink monster a familiar sight in New Orleans. Jump in thrill seekers; anything is possible.
If it is Mardi Gras day, remember that pink Caddy barreling down Bourbon Street (which is always cut off to traffic). There she goes, gold hair glistening from afar, non-descript legs and arms attached to the front as human hood ornaments. Forget caution tape, it only gets in the way. Light up a Viceroy, turn up the volume, Lillian is on the road. With her young eyes.