The back seat of the Buick was cramped. Sally had to sit on the hump between Grandma and Grandpa. She smelled like lavender. He smelled like whisky, but there was no choice in the matter. Every inch of space in the old vehicle was taken up with someone or luggage. 3 weeks at the lake meant a lot of clothes apparently.
Mom and Dad were up front, as was baby Bridget. She was nestled in a wicker bassinet on the floor at mom’s feet. ‘just in case’ mom said before I could ask the question. Every time dad needed to back up the car he’d bark at me to keep my head down so he could look out the back window. When I sat up straight I could see his dark brown eyes look right at me, then through me to the cars following behind. Grandpa was snoring and grandma was knitting something white with a touch of green and red in it. I asked what it was she was making and she just shrugged her shoulders. Mom turned around and said something to grandma in French, and grandma just smiled, then she turned to me, ‘Sally dear, grandma is making Bridget’s Christmas stocking. She makes them for all the grandchildren. You have one, remember?’ I knew I had a Christmas stocking but I didn’t remember the color, and certainly not who made it. Like Santa, I didn’t question those things.
‘Another mouth to feed, and we’re taking off for 3 weeks. I swear Ann, this vacation is going to ruin us.’ My dad squirmed in the driver’s seat, glanced in the mirror and saw that I was watching. ‘I mean, it’s nice. You, me and Sally taking a little trip, but your folks don’t speak a lick of English and are like wooden Indians. They’re just gonna be worse at the lake house.‘ Mom just reached over and patted dad’s shoulder. It was her way of saying ‘believe what you want dear but this is the way things are.’
Dad turned on the radio. The music sounded nice and I wanted to sing along but dad turned the knob until some man started talking about baseball. Soon grandma fell asleep and her head bobbed up and down whenever the car hit a small bump and everybody swayed to and fro when we passed another car.
I put my head in grandma’s lap and twisted around until I could see out the window. Telephone poles would zip past and big cars and trucks would send a blast of air into the Buick attacking grandma’s tight, drawn-back hair. Tiny wisps of hair joined others and began to float and dance it the hot summer air. I watched cloud animals take shape in the deep blue sky and I imagined what they would say to me before my dad would turn down a different road and they’d be gone forever. Finally, I just counted the clouds until I ran out of numbers. I only knew one, two, seven and hundred.
Then I fell asleep.