Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Night Driving

One of the photos in the Mayo Clinic history site set me off on a night drive in memory country with my dad in the '54 pea green Chevy. The photo shows some of the Sisters of St. Francis who started St. Mary's hospital in Rochester. The photo dates back many decades before my memory, but steam heat and nun garb didn't change that much. My memory is in black and white, which is somewhat strange anyway. It's probably a composite memory of several trips with my dad in the Chevy, just as Peter Coy's picture book is a composite trip. The story doesn't connect with children, but the illustrations connect with former children of a certain vintage.

I was probably four years old when we went "night driving" from Lincoln to Norfolk. I was riding shotgun to keep my dad awake on the 120 mile drive. We were going up to the hospital so Dad could see his grandmother or one of his aunts. He taught me to whistle on the trip. We stopped for gas. Dad let me choose a treat from the vending machine. I picked the Hostess Sno-balls because of the soft fuzzy pink appearance. About one bite into the dyed coconut and I swore I'd never eat coconut again! It's not cotton candy or Barbie's feather boa! It's almost as nasty as black jelly beans and goldfish crackers, but those are different stories for another time. It was nastier than the smell of dead skunk for miles and miles.

When we got to the hospital it was very late, well past visiting hours, and besides I was a little kid. Back then you had to be at least twelve to visit a patient. While Dad went upstairs, the nuns took me down to the kitchen and fed me some chicken noodle soup. Did any of this really happen? I'm not sure, but the pea green 1954 Chevy and the Hostess Sno-ball were definitely real.

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