Many years ago during my childhood, I was always my mother’s accompanier. If she went to a funeral, of a friend, I went. Evening events at the church, I went, and to pick up parts for my father’s gas station before auto parts stores delivered, I always went.
I was 9 or 10 – years of age, on this one trip, traveling four-tenths of a mile on a sunny hot and humid summer Saturday afternoon. In my arms, I carried the old brake shoes inside a dirty shop rag to my mother’s car when she told me to place them on the floor in the rear of the car, behind my seat and keep the cloth wrapped tight. She added I do not want to see any grease or dirt marks on my carpet.
I rode up front on the red leather bench seat, which could comfortably hold four people when my mother commented on how dirty I was. The seat was hot, so I asked my mom if she could turn on the air conditioner. Her reply was similar. We are only going down the street, roll your window down and open the vent.
I was looking out the window with my hand directing the breeze from the side vent I had opened. I would have leaned forward in the seat, but my mother would tell me to sit back. Her comment was that time periods way of keeping you safe instead of using the seatbelt or car seat.
She was driving the family’s 1965 black four-door, Buick LeSabre and at 18 feet in length, the car was an enormous rolling land cruiser. I had an easy three or four feet between me and the red dashboard. We were traveling along the four-lane street separated by a double yellow line at about thirty miles an hour, listening to the local R & B radio station.
With my face feeling the warm breeze cooling me off, the car suddenly began to skid to a screeching halt, and my mother started screaming at the top of her lungs. As I turned to look at her, my eyes caught something rolling in the street and tumbling into our lane.
My mother’s hands were covering her face when the car screeched to a halt about ten feet from the tumbling object.
Her foot was on the gas peddle, and the other on the break, and I can hear the accelerator revving the engine.
I reach over, turned the keys ignition off when a guy runs to my mother’s window asking if she was ok.
My mom stops screaming, but she did not recognize this man who starts to reach into the car, and I assume he was going to move the gear shift into park, but I did so before he did.
My mother’s face of shock quickly transferred into safety and security when she began swiping at the guy’s hands. The man tells her she did not hit him, and he backs away from the window.
When I hear his comments, I turn to look out the window to see a little boy about my age laying on the ground, with streaks of his skin scraped from his arms, shoulder, and head exposing the white flesh and blood oozing from his mouth. Behind him, I could see a crushed ball of colored ice and the cone that held it. He was moving a little, and he began to cry.
As people gathered around the boy, it was evident he was ok as he continued crying. I looked at my mother when she asked if I was ok. I nodded, yes.
I realized my mother witness the little boy run from between two cars and hit by a car and the impact sent him rolling forward along the ground into our lane.
My mom composed herself, and we continued two or three-hundred yards towards the store where I ran inside to get the auto brakes. I remember how heavy the box was as I dumped it onto the floor behind my seat. She turned to reminded me to place the cloth under the box and next time, do not drop the box onto the floor of the car.
At the point, I knew my mother was ok when she yelled at me.
On the way back we drove past the accident scene, the ambulance personnel were administering to the little boy, and we could hear from bystanders that he was ok.
When we arrived at the station, everyone was talking about the ordeal, and when they asked me what happen, I told my tale of how I turned the car off and put the gearshift into park as my mother screamed.
My mom said I had courage, and my father smiled, but I knew it was the first time I recognized how I radiated calm and coolness in the presence of a shocking sight.