In honor of my Dad’s birthday in Heaven
During seventh grade, I came home to find my Gran serving tea to six nuns in our kitchen. My teacher, Sister Mary Theresa, was one of them. She was ironing our clothes. Seriously, my teacher was ironing my uniform blouse. She said, “Hello, Anne! Come sit with us for a cup of tea.” Apparently, she had offered to iron while Gran searched for scones. I still wasn’t sure how they arrived until my dad appeared with a wrench in his hand.
“Jimmy, you are a blessing,” one of the nuns said in her Irish accent. He just smiled and said, “I almost have the radiator fixed. By the time you’re done with your tea, I’ll have you back on the road.”
“Oh, how can we ever repay you for this kind gesture?”
My dad thought a minute and said, “Well, if you ever decide to sell that wagon, I’d be interested.” I looked at him and thought, What is he going to do with the nuns’ station wagon?
Years passed and the nuns came by one day. They had vowed to keep their promise. Their station wagon was up for sale. My dad was thrilled, and I wondered who was going to drive that thing. It was a beast of heavy metal. My dad loved it, but I thought it was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen.
My friend picked me up for high school in a brand new, pale blue Malibu convertible. It had a white interior, a pinstripe, and her initials on the door. When something was wrong with that car, she drove her dad’s Mercedes. I was used to riding in style.
Much to my chagrin, guess what I drove. You guessed it! The nuns’ wagon. The Blessed Mother statue was glued to the dashboard with something they must use at NASA. She would not come off; she just rocked and rolled along with the bumps. Under the streetlights at night, the car turned into a deep purple color. I christened her The Purple Cow. I thought this beast was hideous to begin with, but at night, it was horrible. My friend’s Malibu was the same color, day or night.
Friday night came and we had plans to go to a dance. I was the only one who could drive, so I sadly picked my friends up in my Purple Cow. By now, the floor on the shotgun side had developed a hole. When I drove through a puddle, the person in that seat had to pull their legs up really fast, or they’d get soaked. There was a lot of screaming when that happened. I parked far away from the dance so no one would see the Purple Cow.
Another time, I’d driven it to work and when I came out, it was gone!
Someone had stolen my Purple Cow. I called my dad and he met me with the police to take a report. The next morning, the police called to say they found it.
“Come on, Anne,” Dad said, “Let’s go bring her home.”
When we arrived, the officer was waiting at the car. “This is a sturdy piece of wheels, you have here, Mr. Lawless.” My dad smiled, appreciating the compliment. “When we catch him, we’ll call you to see if you want to press charges.”
A week later, we learned that a teenage boy had taken it for a joy ride and just left it in a parking lot. Years later, my brother-in-law met my dad for the first time. “You look so familiar,” he said, rubbing his face trying to place him.
Guess who he was… the Purple Cow thief!
We also had two-hour rides to the Jersey shore every summer. Seven of us were crammed in the car with suitcases on top, a dog in the back with my grandmother, and enough food to last a year. Did I mention that the Purple Cow didn’t have air-conditioning? The only person getting any air was sitting shotgun where the growing hole in the floor created a little breeze. Between the sweaty bodies, the dog drooling, Gran snoring, and my dad singing country western songs, it felt like a six-hour drive.
Back then, I felt so embarrassed by that car. Now, I’d give anything to take that drive one more time—on a sunny day, of course.