Dad, do you mind if I take the car?”
My dad had a two-toned, turquoise and white 1956 Pontiac. As soon as I was of legal driving age, those wheels replaced the bicycle as my freedom machine. Whenever I got the chance, I’d take off to explore the warren of back roads surrounding the town that restrained me. Don’t get me wrong. Des Moines wasn’t such a bad place to live: in fact, for Iowa, it was quite a metropolis. But city life was too humdrum. Give me the open road anytime.
Luckily, the late ’50s witnessed a surge of dual-career couples, which assisted my flight toward the freedom I craved. After my brother went off to college, my mom traded in her apron for a businesslike blouse and skirt, selling housewares in the bustling aisles of Miller and Paine department store, Des Moines’s answer to Macy’s. My dad, a minister, spent long days in the study of his parish, dutifully preparing his sermon for the following Sunday.
In my eyes, this arrangement was perfect. With my brother at college and my parents both at work, I was free to create my own life. What could be better, especially when my dad lent me the car at night? Whatever little boundaries remained in my life at that time, I was more than willing to push.
This particular evening, my folks had settled down to the new American regimen of watching TV after a hard day’s labor. Instead of imagining Ozzie and Harriet, as we used to when gathered around the radio, we…