Ah yes, piling in to Mom’s 1964 Army-green, four-door Olds, all six of us heading out earlier than should be legal to even be awake for a six-hour drive from Hartford to Scranton to visit family. It was Dad, Mom, Richard, LaVerne, Wayne and me, from oldest to the youngest. Being only five meant I was sandwiched between Mom and Dad in the front seat where I constantly shifted and fidgeted because the rolled edge of the split-front seat’s vinyl upholstery kept digging into the backs of my bare legs and butt. Try sitting still on that for six hours through the rolling hills of western Connecticut, across the Hudson River into New York (where I held my breath across the bridge because that’s what I still do crossing big bridges), and finally into Pennsylvania where they had strange things called hamlets that made me hungry because it reminded me of ham.
And of course making the trip even less pleasurable was that my nemesis — my teasing, taunting, pain-in-the-ass brother Wayne — had to come, too. I didn’t understand why a 14-year-old boy couldn’t stay home alone, nor did I care; I simply did not want him there.
He always found ways to annoy me, whether it was making faces at me, poking me, tickling me, or farting and making me try to smell it. I think I actually hated him. Even his name was annoying. Any car trip with him was torture because I had no escape: he was made to sit in the middle position right behind me, giving him plenty of opportunities to stick his fingers through the seat split or yank on my springy Shirley Temple ringlets Mom so painstakingly curled into uniform perfection.
But sweet revenge would soon be mine as I discovered that the monotonous humming of the tires on the pavement also could be made by me. I curled my lips inward and hummed the same note, only varying pitch and volume if we went up a hill or came down one. Hummmmmm. For miles I sounded like a meditating yoga master. “Mom, make her stop, Mom, pleeeeease, she’s driving me crazy,” he wailed from the backseat as I glanced at Mom with knowing smugness. Yeah, you know what they say about payback.