Sheltered Islander

Sheltered Islander: Memories from a Volkswagen on Long Island

I lost my dear Aunt Carol over the summer. She was a classic Irish beauty with flaming red hair, green eyes and porcelain skin. I am sad for the loss but grateful for many happy and funny childhood memories.

There was a day when I was about 12, that my mother had to go to court. She dressed in a nice pantsuit and Aunt Carol drove Mom, me and my grandmother to the courthouse in her Volkswagen.

Mom went in and quickly reappeared because (this was before women’s lib) the judge didn’t allow women in pants in his courtroom. Grammie was the only one wearing a skirt. It was a lined skirt, so she wasn’t wearing a slip. My mother and grandmother struggled to exchange clothes in the confines of a Volkswagen—it was like moving pianos around in a closet. Mom got the skirt on, but Grammie couldn’t get in Mom’s pants. Grammie moved to the passenger seat, where she could stretch out in her nice grey sweater, girdle, stockings (this was before pantyhose) and high heels.

Mom went back to the courthouse and we drove to get hot chocolates. Returning to court, we saw up ahead that the traffic light was out and two cops were getting out of their car to direct traffic. One signaled my aunt to stop, and when she hit the brakes the hot chocolates went flying and the passenger seat broke, flipping Grammie back so her legs were in the air. My aunt took one look and got one of those rare terrible cases of the giggles where you can’t stop laughing.

The cop saw what happened and came to the driver’s side window to ask if everything was alright. Grammie tried to cover herself with a church bulletin she found, but the cop noticed that she was missing a key piece of clothing and wanted an explanation. Aunt Carol was still laughing, which was annoying the officer, so I helped by telling him that her skirt was in a judge’s chambers. That answer didn’t work for him… The cop went around the car and helped get Grammie’s seat forward. She began to tell him the story, but after about 30 seconds, his eyes glazed over and he waved us on.

As soon as the car lurched forward, Grammie’s seat flipped back again, and we all laughed hysterically as we drove through Patchogue with Gram’s stocking feet on the windshield. When we pulled up, Mom was waiting. She opened the door to find three stooges covered in hot chocolate, and her mother ass-over-teakettle in a Volkswagen. It was a day to remember

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