Monday, July 20, 2015

Polishing Mom’s ’51 Merc

In the fall of ‘64, Bill helped Mom get a new used car; a ’51 Merc. At least it was new to us. We called it the tank because of its oblong shape and size.
Every time we got a new used car, we’d follow the same ritual. First, we’d wash the outside and vacuum the cloth bench seats and carpet. After the car was clean, Mom would move it to a shady area under a tree. Then, the real work began. Rich would take the lid off a can of Turtle Wax Simonize. Rich would put wax on a sponge and apply it to the fender using a circular motion. He’d stop each time after putting on a patch the size of a large pizza.
“We gotta wait a few minutes. Go get an ole tee shirt, Danny,” he said. I ran into our room and opened our underwear draw. Then, I remembered I had a sweatshirt with an elbow ripped out.
     “How about this?”
     “Grab an arm,” Rich said as we tore it apart. After the wax turned white, he wiped it off with an outside section of sweatshirt. “Now, let me have a piece so I can buff it,” he said. I handed him a torn segment of soft inside cloth and watched as he rubbed the streaks of wax into a brilliant shine.
I continued to smear wax on the sponge and ripped an old tee shirt and towel into pieces so Rich could finish the job. He showed me how to apply wax to the chrome and bumpers. Then, buff it. By late afternoon, we were done.  
     “Wow! The car looks brand new,” I said.
     “Not quite,” said Rich, standing beside me with his arm on my shoulder. 
Even though the ’51 Merc was clean and polished, it was still thirteen years old. Long ago they stopped making cars with windshields made out of two panes of glass.
Whenever we drove through town, I’d slump down in the backseat hoping that someone I knew wouldn’t recognize me.