(sign on a side road 9 miles north of Fort Scott, KS)

Hi, Mom,

Here’s some driving trivia for you. Kansas adopted specific seatbelt laws in 1986, and Colorado followed in 1987. The ages for having to wear seatbelts vary slightly, but both states fine drivers when they–and their riders, especially under-age riders–do not wear seatbelts.

You used to drive anywhere and everywhere, Mom. You transported your children and grandchildren and anyone who needed a ride, and this was before seatbelt laws. When our dog Stardust scratched open her abdomen stitches after surgery, you wrapped her in an old quilt and drove her to the vet’s. I know because I helped hold Stardust in the front seat. She was miserable and her blood was seeping through the quilt, but you stayed calm, kept driving, and talked softly to Stardust as you patted her head.

That was the only time I remember us making a mess in any of the cars. We always drove D-license plates, meaning the cars were for sale at the dealership. So when you drove us and our friends to the swimming pool or youth group or any activities, if we stopped for treats or ice cream cones, we got out of the car to eat them. No messes in the car. That was the rule.

Stardust left a bloody mess in the front seat that day, and the vet couldn’t save her. Dad never said a word. We’d just lost our dog, and the rules changed when we lost a beloved pet.

Sometimes while giving our friends rides, you’d also give rides to their little brothers and sisters. I remember when you once took our young neighbors along on an errand for their mom. Brad was maybe two, and little Pammie was just a baby. Brad stood between us, kind of tucked behind your right shoulder as you drove. I held the baby, and none of us had on seat belts because I think it was only 1962. The older siblings were in the back seat, and I’m sure we all arrived safely.

Now, even though everyone wears seat belts–including children in heavy-duty safety seats (in the back seat, of course), I still resort to a safety technique I learned from you. If I have to stop or slow down quickly when I’m driving, my right arm automatically flies out to protect my passenger, even if it’s my husband, Jim. He just smiles, but our policeman son-in-law probably thinks it’s nuts. Old safety driving habits die hard, even when we’re using seatbelts.

I think you’d probably be glad you’re not driving any more, Mom.  In addition to seat belt laws, there are now laws against using cell phones or texting while driving, and some states are starting to fine drivers who engage in any activity that might distract them. (Which, in your case, Mom, would mean no putting on lipstick while you’re behind the wheel.)

Still, I smile and feel perfectly safe remembering your right arm flying out to protect your passengers, and the gentle, comforting way you patted Stardust’s head as you drove her to the vet’s.

You were a good driver, and you were–and still are–a good mom. But just between us, when you and I are out together on a ride, I get a kick out of buying us ice cream cones and eating them IN the car.

Love, Marylin

~   ~   ~




Filed under driving laws, friends, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for grandchildren, neighbors


  1. Ah, the right arm stretch… My mother stopped my sister from flying into the windshield with that arm when we were kids and got into a car accident. So it does work!

    • As my police officer son-in-law would say, your mother must have had extraordinary strength to do that. (And, as we know, mothers do have super strengths when they need to protect their children!)

  2. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Marylin–My mom still threw her arm out to protect me during a sudden stop until the day she stopped driving! She was probably in her late eighties and I was in my late fifties but she wanted to keep me safe! Good memory.

    • When Jim read this, he recalled a time in his 30s when his mother was driving and did this, too. He sees this as good moms saving their “babies” of all ages. I vote for that!

  3. Molly

    This is tooooo funny…..just today, when I had to hit the brakes a little too hard and too fast because of a driver who decided to turn at the last minute, I did the right arm stretch to keep my purse and school bag “safe”…. I guess I picked it up from you and Grandma!

    Great story, Mom…..LOVE IT!!

    • The one thing we do NOT want to imitate is Mom’s (your grandmother’s) habit of applying lipstick just moments before stopping/parking the car–to look her best! And yet she never had a mishap…

  4. Ah yes, the flying right arm – I remember my Mom’s well…

  5. Marylin, over here it would be the flying left arm. My Mum never drove but her arms were always there, outstretched to save us or in my case it was usually the flying arm with the hand connecting to the back of my head when I was caught doing something that I shouldn’t, but it was still there to also save me from myself too

    Great post xx

  6. Right arm, left arm–thanks for always keeping my stories centered, Tom–as long as my Mom and your Mum were saving us, that’s what counts!

  7. Marylin

    This subject is so timely. I just had a conversation with several friends over dinner on what we were exposed to as kids in the car many moons ago and what was allowed. In a comical moment one of my friends who grew up in a very rural area said ” My God my parents had us in the back of the station wagon NO SEATBELTS existed. We were 6 kids deep jumping in the hatch back area facing backward. My parents had a cigarette in one hand and a cold beer in the other.” How did we every make it thru those days.Thank goodness times have changed in that area for the better in safety However, I do crack up sometimes when I see parents these days so uptight about having their kids play on over the top safety/sanitary places, slides and jungle gym’s etc. Heck I grew up in the age where the play areas including slides were made of steel in a dirty sand pit. The slides got hotter than heck in summer where you almost had 3rd degree burns and steel areas were spit open and we were barefoot. But ya know what … I never got hurt I am pretty ok mentally …although my friends would beg to differ. ha ha. Our parents never thought twice. I guess times have changed! What is the maya Angelou saying “when you know better you do better.”

    • Kellie, my parents didn’t drink, and they didn’t smoke. But that’s the ONLY difference between your account of jumping in the hatch back (okay, we jumped around and wrestled in a station wagon with the middle seat laid flat.) But you’re right, we lived to tell about it and are pretty okay mentally.
      But I have to admit this: from Day One, where my grandchildren have been concerned, I’m all for the safe carriers and middle seat-only safety setups. Now I DO know better, so I DO better…and thank my lucky stars that the lack of seat belts and other safety precautions didn’t end up killing or maiming us. (But I am still smiling at the hot steel slides and sand pits; I played on them, my daughter played on them, and now so do my grandchildren.)

      • Indeed on the new safety seatbelts and baby offered. Seems like we are lucky to still be laughing about so much after you see the improvements of today.

  8. I’m catching up again on blog posts. Thanks for your patience! 🙂

  9. Nancy Gibbs

    Loved this entry! And poor Stardust. Most in evidence in this story
    is the love you have for your mom and the very fine memories you two share.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s