Remember the days before you got your first car. You were a ‘rider’.. You rode with your parents, your friends, public transport… You were dependent. “Oh, how free I will be when I get my own car”. “I can’t wait!” We exclaimed and look forward to the days of freedom that would come in the form of a car.
As the day of car ownership drew closer, we became familiar with a new word – a word that seemed to come from everywhere, parents, teachers, newspapers, driver’s license learning manuals – RESPONSIBILITY. On every hand we were told about the great responsibility that comes with car ownership. Safety, payments, insurance, safety, gas, maintenance, safety. All of this was somewhat daunting, but we were up to the challenge because we focused on another word, FREEDOM. This car, my car is going to set me free.
Once the car had been purchased and made it first trip to your house, you sat in it in the driveway and thought “How great is this!”- a new word was looming on the horizon. It is OBLIGATION. This word comes to us quietly – it sneeks up on us. We had forgotten the humorous bumper sticker on the pickup truck at the store, the modern commentary on neighborliness “Yes, this is my truck, and NO, I will not help you move.” Then it begins: parents – “I forgot to get milk at the store, will you go and get it for me”, friends – “can you come and pick us up, we want to go to the mall?” Siblings, “we don’t like to walk out and catch the bus to school. You have a car now, you can take us before you go to work”. This last request is where Bonnie’s story begins – ‘And she saw the whole thing’.
During her junior and senior years of High School, Bonnie worked after school and looked forward to the days following graduation. She saved her money and looked forward to buying her own car. Soon after graduation, she did just that. She bought a brand new 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger. She was so excited – the two-tone blue paint job set off the lines of the car perfectly. Now, all she had to do was get her drivers license. The new car sitting in the driveway was wonderful incentive. She had practiced driving on her road, Warren Lane (named after her family) in her 1954 Ford. The Ford was a little difficult to handle and on occasion, with her mother seated beside her to encourage her, she would drive off the road through the hedges. She blamed it on the fact that she was laughing so hard she couldn’t keep the car in the road – but she wasn’t going to laugh in her new car! She continued to prepare herself for the driving exam and was overjoyed when she passed it on the first try. Now she was free! And it seemed that she was. That two-tone blue Dart Swinger burned up the roads – when she was not working or fulfilling obligations.
Bonnie was a dutiful sister and on her way to work each morning, she would take Susie and Mike to school. Her youngest brother and sister, Pete and Cathy, would leave earlier as they were in elementary school. They would walk to the end of Warren Lane and ride bus to school.
On this particular morning, they began their preparations for school as usual. The younger kids had already left, and Bonnie, Mike, and Susie got in her car – Mike was in the back and Susie riding shotgun. Their Mother was standing at the door and watched as they got ready to leave. As they shut the doors, their mother called out “Watch out for Pete’s bicycle, it is behind your car”. Bonnie was putting the car into reverse and asked “What did she say?” Susie said “She said watch out for Pete, he is behind the car”. The car was already moving back as Susie was speaking and they all heard and thud and a crunch under the car. Bonnie said “What was that?” Susie said “You’ve run over Pete!”. Again “what?” Mike, who was still in the back seat started hitting Bonnie “You hit Pete, you’ve run over Pete!” Susie jumped out of the car and ran hysterically up toward the house. Her arms were flailing and legs kicking, she could not believe that they had just run over their little brother. Mike was still screaming at Bonnie when she, with amazing presence of mind, ran around to the back of the car to rescue Pete. She yelled “Where’s Pete, all I see is a bicycle”. By this time their mother was standing in the doorway, holding her head, sobbing – you’ve run over Pete”. Bonnie pulled the bicycle out and said “I only hit his bicycle – he is not here”. Here we have another illustration of the amazing power of suggestion. Their mother watched the whole scene and yet, in the chaos and crying, believed what she had not seen. Now to be fair, Pete was known to hide when the school bus arrived and he would make his way back home, waiting among the trees for Bonnie and the others to leave so that there would be no way for him to get to school. This may have been on their minds – he could have been behind the car. He may have been watching the whole thing from a row of hedges nearby – enjoying his day off from school.