Hood Ornament

Today, cars are full of safety features. Air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control are common. Many cars even have anti-collision features that automatically stop the car in an emergency. In the 1960s, cars weren’t nearly as sophisticated. Seat belt use wasn’t a common thing back then. Mom’s safety protocol consisted of swinging her arm out to stop the kid in the front seat. Back seat kids were expected to brace their legs, and any kids lying in the car’s rear window would spill out like the Flying Wallendas.

When I was a kid, we went to church twice on Sunday, and once in the middle of the week. Each Sunday morning, Mom would pack me and my 3 siblings in the car and drive us to church. We arrived at church, and Mom pulled her Ford Fairlane up to the curb. Instead of waiting for her to gather the kids on the sidewalk and guide us across the street, I threw open my passenger door and bolted into the street. I didn’t look left or right, I didn’t even look.

The church sat on a quiet street, but it still had some traffic. As I ran across the street, I focused on the church, making a beeline towards the door. I never saw the Chevy Impala bearing down on me.

I heard the squeal of brakes, then felt a sudden WHOOMP as the car’s bumper made contact with my backside. According to witnesses, I flew into the air, across the street, and landed on the sidewalk. My feet never stopped moving as I touched down and sprinted towards the church door.

Before I could disappear inside, I felt an adult hand grab my shoulder and stop my progress. The woman driving the Chevy Impala threw open the door and ran towards me to see if I was OK. My Mom was approaching from the other side. I stood in the middle and braced for impact.

Mom got to me first, and started checking from head to foot for any injuries. The car driver stood in hysterics nearby and yelled out, “Is he OK?” Mom had me walk a few steps to see if I was all right. I had a slight limp from the bumper impact, and the woman said “His leg is broken!” I reassured her that I was OK. Mom handed my siblings off to another church member while she drove me to the hospital.

When I got to the hospital, I was overwhelmed by all the equipment in the emergency room. We were ushered into the examination room, and the technician took an x-ray to make sure I had no broken bones. The doctor came in, and asked to see where I was hit. I took down my pants, and the doctor examined the extent of the injury, which was about a 50-cent piece sized bruise.

Mom peered over the doctor’s shoulder, and was aghast that I wore underwear with holes. I felt her steely gaze while I remembered her admonition to ‘always wear clean underwear.’ Once I got cleared by the doctor as being OK, he handed me off to my firefighter uncle, who asked me questions as he filled out the accident report.

“Any broken bones?” “Nope.”

“Any cuts or scrapes?” “No.”

“Were you injured or killed?”

I looked around to see if Mom was nearby. I leaned into my uncle, and said, “Not yet.”

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