Friday, February 10, 2012

Driving Miss Mary

I know how Hoke Colburn felt. Behind him, in the mirror, sat Daisy Werthan barking out orders.

 My mirror shows me a similar character: Miss Mary.

 Mom has always sat in right rear seat of any car we've ever driven. It is her place. When Dad died, I asked her if she'd like to move up front with me. It'd be easier to get in and out of the car there. We'd sit side by side and the conversation would be easier. We wouldn't have to be forever handing things back and forth.

 "No, I like it here," she said. "All my stuff is here."

 Thus the conversation about relocating ended.

 "I'll feel like a chauffeur," I told her. "Too bad," she answered.

 So as we tool about town, I sit alone. Driving. Humming. She sits alone. Reading. Sleeping.

 With the mirror, though, I can watch the progress of her book. I'll begin to see her listing left, slowly shifting down in the seat until she is no longer visible. When I can no longer see the top of her hair, I know that she is sound asleep. It is a rare acknowledgement of trust, her sleeping while I drive.

 Mostly the rear seat is a sort of throne where she can arrange the next stop, make mention of some sight beside the road, plan the next day's meals. I watch her survey her kingdom from there.

 Beside her, on the floor, is a box which contains her usual necessities, a sort of portable beauty parlor. It contains tweezers and clippers. A favorite drive-time pastime is to tweeze errant hair from her eyebrows, a dangerous activity while speeding down the road. "You'll put an eye out if I have to stop quickly," I tell her. "I have to do this here, The light is better," she replies.

 She keeps a roll of paper towels handy, too. No idea when they'll be needed to clean up some mess, else staunch the flow of blood if the tweezers go terribly wrong at 55 miles per hour.

 To her credit, she keeps the square foot of floor beneath her feet impeccably clean. She keeps a rag rug there, folded just so, and she'll whip it out now and again and shake it when we reach the garage.

 "Let's go to the grocery in New Lebanon," she says. "Then we can stop at the library in Germantown."

 I follow the instructions like a cabbie. After all, I'm drivin' Miss Mary.

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