For better or worse, my dad is a ‘car guy”. He’s always had an intense love of those beautiful and dangerous machines on four wheels, with intense horsepower and gorgeously shaped fiberglass bodies. This love affair most likely came from his own father, who had been a truck driver his whole life and had also had a perpetual fascination with automobiles. My own father read car magazines religiously, and can identify differences in vehicles from the tiniest details- “That must be a ’67 Corvette because they changed the shape of the taillight slightly, making it more of an oval shape in ’68, and the ’66 Corvettes still have lights that stuck out a bit more like the previous years.” Every year we would go to multiple local car shows, and spend hours going to car after car and inspecting every inch to see how true to original it was or point out each tiny little imperfection.
When I was about eight, he purchased a 1993 Cobra Mustang. All black, with a CD player (a luxury at the time). It couldn’t be taken out in the rain, it was waxed meticulously whenever it was taken out of garage, and after months of owning it there was still a new car smell that permeated the vehicle- a pleasant mixture of leather and other scents. When we did take it out, we usually went to a diner named Annabelle’s, a retro place that was famous for its milkshakes. We would go there many Friday nights, as those nights many would gather to show off their cars, and just discuss cars at length. Though I was still too young to really care about cars, I still enjoyed going as a special treat. Going to Annabelle’s meant blasting Chuck Berry or Bob Segar from the stereo (my father’s two favorite CDs that he owned at the time), going extremely fast, and, of course, getting a thick milkshake that seemed endless. We would only go in the summer, so we would have the windows down to enjoy the fresh summer air, smelling of lingering sunshine and freshly cut grass.
One night, as we were coming home, we came to a stretch of road deemed “Freelane Way”- a long, straight stretch of somewhat secluded road that was my dad said was perfect for driving on at top speed.
“Alright, are you guys ready? Let’s see what this little Mustang has got! I’m going to pull a whole shot,” my dad said to my brother and I, excitement filling his voice. I had only a vague idea of what a “whole shot” was, being only eight and a half years old, but I could tell we’d be going fast.
It was already dark, despite it being summer, so the road was a strip lined with bright streetlights overhead which I imagined to be alien eyes spying on us. No other cars were around, and the night was perfectly quiet. My dad turned the music off, so we could just listen to the engine and exhaust. He had come to a stop, and then began to accelerate. Rapidly. My body was pressed hard against the leather seat that was yet to be broken in, and in a moment we were going the fastest I had even gone in my short life. I felt like I could hardly breath, and everything was a blur. I could feel each shift, going from gear to gear as quickly as possible, and I eventually closed my eye tightly, trying to block out the unnerving sensations.
The experience ended nearly as quickly as it had begun. We slowed down to a normal, safe speed and continued on our way home, though my dad had a large grin on his face. Despite the fact we were now driving along in a perfectly normal way, my heart continued to pound the rest of the way home.
Since it was well past our bedtime when we got home, something that was permitted on nights at Annabelle’s, we immediately got ready for bed once we arrived. I remained in a nervous state, unable to talk much and still shaking slightly. As my dad was putting me to bed, he could feel the tension and fear in me, and felt my body still trembling slightly from the ride.
“Oh, Scooter, I’m so so sorry! I didn’t know it would scare you like that! Are you alright? We don’t have to do that ever again, if it frightens you that much,” he said in a gentle voice, enveloping me in a warm, comforting hug. He held me close for a few moments, apologized again, and tucked me into my amiable sheets. After giving me a loud kiss on the forehead and placing his hand tranquility on the top of my head, he said good night and “I love you” one last time before leaving and closing my door for the night. My usual night light was still on, and by this time my heart had slowed and I drifted off easily into a dreamless sleep, unafraid and assured that I was entirely safe.
While he never pulled a whole shot in the Mustang while I was a passenger after that, I was never fearful of being harmed when going at high speed. Years later, he would force me to go on roller coasters that I was terrified of but ended up falling in love with. I am his youngest child, his only daughter, but he has never treated me as “weak” or fragile. He has supported me through every difficulty and every challenge I have encountered, and been there to share all of my joys as well. My father has always helped me see that I am stronger than I might think and times, and made sure that I have never let fear control my life. From an early age, he showed me that fear can only place restrictions on your enjoyment of life when you allow it, but he also has always been there for me in moments of need so that I have never felt alone. I’m not sure what more you could ask for from a father.