A special and heartfelt THANK YOU to two favorite writers for taking the time to mention my latest book, Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies.
The brilliant author Patricia L. Sands says:
Humour in life where you may never have noticed—Barb Taub has a remarkable talent for seeing humour that is deep and rich in the most unexpected places. She is able to focus on something almost everyone experiences as a matter of routine in life, and transform it into something that either has you chuckle knowingly or laughing uproariously. Sharing details of growing up in her own large family, she offers a glimpse of how her finely honed sense of humour developed. Combined with her journalistic experience and innate storytelling ability, Taub’s writing offers an escape from the often harsh realities of the world today and reminds us of the importance of laughter. A gift!
And—keeping me in fantastic company with several other wonderful writers—Sally Cronin mentioned the review on her Smorgasboard blog.
As thanks for their generosity, and in honor of my father’s birthday, here’s an excerpt from Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies.
Chapter 42: My Old Man & The Car
With my father’s birthday coming up this week, I’ve found myself thinking about the role cars have played in defining our relationship. Feeling it was important to be close to my mother at such a time, I arranged to be born at Columbus Hospital on the north side of Chicago, where she was currently in labor. But my father missed my big debut. He was trapped in his car on the South Side while the Museum of Science and Industry hauled a German submarine across Lake Shore Drive. I think he and Das Boat bonded in those special moments, though, and he’s been back often to visit it.
After we moved to California, my father’s driving followed only two rules. The first was NEVER BRAKE, particularly if the road was steep and winding. “You don’t want to wear out the brake shoes,” he’d remark to relatives visiting from the flatlands. They would nod, their white knuckles gripping the seats while their lives flashed before their eyes. Ignoring the spectacular scenery zipping by at near-light speed, we kids fought over who got to sit next to the windows and have some slight chance to leap out of the car before it plunged over the next cliff.
My father’s other rule was to say the rosary every time we went farther than the corner. Since he had a habit of turning around and watching us as we stumbled through our “Hail Marys” in the back seat, these trips contained some of my most deeply moving religious experiences. “A nun, God,” I’d bargain. “I’ll enter the convent if you make my father look at the road.”
[As my father takes the next curve, tires squealing and cigar smoke drifting over his shoulder, I sweeten the deal.] “And if you get him to use the brake, God, you can have a few of my sisters too.”
With so many kids, my parents must have suffered from memory loss. It’s the only explanation for the way they kept trying to take vacations which involved driving through Nebraska. (State motto: “We’re in your way.”) At first it just meant the obligatory ticket, since it’s apparently against Nebraska state law to have out-of-state plates. Then came the year my parents decided to save on motels by hitching a pop-up camper behind the Vomit Comet. Our fellow campers were astonished at the speed with which we kids set it up at night. They didn’t know my parents wouldn’t let anyone go to the bathroom until it was done.
Things went pretty well on the trip east from California:
- DAY 1, The Sierra Mountains. MY PARENTS: “Isn’t that beautiful?” US KIDS: “Where?”
- DAY 2, The Rocky Mountains. MY PARENTS: “Isn’t that beautiful?” US KIDS: “Where?”
- DAY 3, Nebraska. MY PARENTS: “Is there a problem, officer?” MY LITTLE BROTHER: “Are you going to shoot all of us or just my dad?”
Then came the return trip. My parents didn’t believe in throwing away their money on fancy automotive ‘options’—like car radios—whose sole purpose was to separate rich people from their cash. So we didn’t know about the tornado in Nebraska until the trailer headed for Oz, pulling the car with it. Luckily, just as one sister swore she saw a witch on a bicycle and some cows fly past, the hitch popped off when the pop-up pooped out.
We resumed the trip, sans trailer, with nine kids layered into the twelve inches of space between the sleeping bags and the roof. After driving through the desert for hours without seeing another vehicle, we came upon a young couple stranded by their broken car. But when my dad offered them a lift, they took one look and said they’d wait for the next car. (For the rest of his life, my father often mentioned his worry about that young couple. I suspect they did the same.)
Our first landlords told us they didn’t believe in selling any real estate they’d acquired. My father felt the same way about his cars. “There’s nothing wrong with that perfectly good car,” he would insist as he towed Gus, our geriatric VW, home for the fifth time that week. “You must have done something to it.”
He still blames me for the demise of 20+ year-old Perfectly Good Gus. I called for TAPS when the last working gear froze solid in the on-lane entrance to Santa Cruz beach one hot Saturday afternoon. The ensuing traffic jam—legendary even by California standards—made the evening news and lasted until a carful of frustrated surfers picked up Gus and moved him to the side of the road.
I had my 15-minutes of unwanted fame.
Gus became a VW parts organ donor.
My father never quite got over the loss.