Oldsmobile Triptych


The car door is slammed shut and the brand new robin’s egg blue 1955 Oldsmobile leaps to life. My cousin Kathie presses her nose against the glass and crosses her eyes at me. I cant help giggling, though Im already feeling sad that shes leaving and I wont see her for another two weeks. Beside her, Susan, Lyndsay and Bob bounce around jockeying for position on the back seat. Uncle Jack is driving and Aunt Ellen is holding baby Norman. John disappears into his position on the floor of the back seat and little Ralph wriggles in his spot on the back window shelf. Theresa, whos the oldest, sits in the front between her mum and dad.

My dad’s hand is on my shoulder. Grandpa and Grandma stand beside us, and were all waving goodbye as the car pulls out of the driveway and accelerates down the dirt road toward the city. Uncle Jack loves a little speed and he wants to show off his new car.

My nine cousins come out from the city two or three times a month, especially during the summer. They have a big plot in my grandparent’s garden, to help feed all those mouths, as my mother says. I love it because Im an only child (until recently) and its lonesome in the country sometimes.

As we’re turning away getting back to normal, there is a thump and we all turn to look as the door to the outhouse opens and out comes Christine, next youngest after Kathie. We all look at each other in alarm. Christine hasnt figured out the problem yet, and shes concentrating on her zipper at the same time as trying to carry a handful of dandelions.

Dad breaks out of our freeze and swings into action. He runs to her, grabs her, tosses her into his car and floors it down the driveway. You can see her face trying to decide whether to cry or not. Whether his old Ford can catch the Oldsmobile is another question but Dad’ll give it a go!


The last car door is slammed shut. Everybody has exploded out of the Olds, as you would after spending over an hour in the car with 10 other people. My grandfather and I are the receiving party this time. As I look around for Kathie, I slowly become aware of an agonised wail. We all stop what we’re doing and look at the source of the sound. Theres Kathie, tight up against the car, with a huge scream building up and slowly releasing itself. Im the first to notice that, while the rest of her is all out of the car, her middle finger is still stuck in the door near the hinge. Uncle Jack leaps to action and opens the door while Aunt Ellen grabs Kathie and holds her hand out for inspection. That finger looks completely smushed to me. The three of them hop back in the car and head off for the doctors in Tomahawk, a few miles from where we live.

I can’t believe what Ive just seen. Everything about Kathie is perfect. She has perfect blond hair, and perfect clothes, and a perfect laugh and is perfectly beautiful. I cant believe that shes not going to be perfect any more.


The car door is slammed shut. This time it’s me on the inside, at the window in the back seat, where Ive been given the place of honour as the special guest going into the city for a holiday with my cousins. My dad and mum are standing outside the window waving. Mum is holding my baby brother Paul. I felt so excited a moment ago, and was so impatient to be off, and suddenly the bottom drops out of my stomach and Im feeling completely forlorn. I put a big smile on my face and wave furiously at Paul and my parents, and at Grandma and Grandpa. John, on the floor at my feet, is crabbing at me to get my feet out of his face. Christine and Susan are arguing about whose turn it is to sit next to Bob, who gets to sit by the other back-seat window. Uncle Jack shouts in his huge voice, “All of you, shut up,” and there isnt a sound in the car. I feel lost inside this big family. The week stretching ahead has never seemed so long.

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