She walks barefoot into the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee wearing boxers and a white tank, her mom says, “Happy Birthday honey.”
“Thanks mom,” she smiles and bends down to scratch the cat’s back. It’s going to be hot today, in the 90’s, to bad she can’t wear shorts to school.
“Yeah, now I can vote and buy cigarettes.”
“Honey, you don’t even smoke. You want me to fix you an egg?” Her mother asks her the very same question every morning.
“Just coffee, thanks Mom.”
Its Friday, she’s a senior in high school, her boyfriend will pick her up in thirty minutes, she’s excited to wear her new bellbottom jeans, and peasant blouse with the drawstring neckline.
She’s co-mingling with her boyfriend this year, they share a locker, and she hopes to find it properly decorated for her birthday. She already knows he bought her a camera, the boy can’t keep a secret, he spilled the beans in science class with very little prompting. It’s a cool gift. She’s pleased and madly in love.
He’s taking her to The Buddy Holly Story tonight, just opened in theaters, and dinner at the local steak house, comes with a free cheese fondue. Epic. They’ll probably park at Dover Elementary for a make-out session before going home.
School breaks in four short weeks. The night before graduation they’ll be attending senior night at Disneyland, the entire class is flying into Orange County, and taking a bus to the park. Girls have to wear dresses, the boys a coat, and tie. She’s wearing the dress he bought her last year for her birthday.
She already has a job lined up with Staff Consultants for the summer. They’ll both be attending local colleges in the fall. Jimmy Carter is president but he won’t beat out Ronald Regan for a second term. According to library records the first family will watch Dial M for Murder in the White House theater tonight.
She’s jealous of her older sister who lives in Westwood, California while attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandizing. The whole family is going down for her graduation in June. She has a major crush on John Travolta and fantasizes about running into him on this visit. It could happen. Saturday Night Fever is storming the nation. Disco is all the rage. It’s not her talent.
Her locker is covered with pictures, love notes, and balloons. A bouquet of flowers falls out when she opens the door to grab her text books. Her girlfriends brought cupcakes. Seniors have off campus privileges so they walk across the street to Guido’s pizza parlor for lunch. She’s feeling pretty damn cool.
She’s the spirit commissioner this year so she’s stuck making posters after school for track and field. Bruce Jenner used to practice at Del Mar when he was preparing for the olympics. Before he became Caitlyn. Del Mar’s only claim to fame.
On this day a most extraordinary thing happens. It gives her pause and changes the way she thinks of herself. They run out of tape and paint for the posters. Coach Cunningham hands her his car keys and a twenty dollar bill, he says, “take my car, pick up the supplies you need, and grab some cokes.”
Now this particular coach has one prized possession, it’s his beloved convertible, and no one has ever driven his car. Ever. She flushes with delight. A broad smile covers her face as she gages the weight of the keys in her hand.
He trusts her with his car? She is flabbergasted. There is a small internal shift, a lightbulb goes off, it is her eighteenth birthday, and she is at the helm of her own life. She doesn’t take this new found identity lightly, driving with extreme caution, she rolls onto Bascom Avenue.
Her tan arm rests on the door of Coach Cunningham’s beloved car, she settles into the driver’s seat, catching her reflection in the rearview mirror, an image she is only beginning to hold of herself, but one that will define the way she moves in the world from this day forward. Could he not have thought of her as rich, famous, thin?
Driving away in the convertible she does feel a little like Marilynn Monroe. If only she had a scarf.
She is me.
Today I’m driving away in an convertible, heading to Boomtown in Lake County for a little wine tasting, I feel much the same as I did almost forty years ago. I love this boy, he decorates my life, and I rarely take my responsibilities lightly.
If only I had a scarf…
I’m Living in the Gap, drop in anytime.