Dad

On hot summer days, my family used to load into our 1965 Impala station wagon and head down to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. My mom and dad up front, my sister in the backseat, and my brother and I in the way back, in the small seat that faced the rear window. I would stare out that window for hours, watching the world fly by in reverse, giving the peace sign to motorcyclists, and inventing lives to fill the backyards we passed. Every time we went by a fence that was over six feet tall my dad would yell, “Look kids, nudist colony,” and we’d stretch to see into the nudist colony.

We would ask: “What do they do in the winter, Dad?”

“What do you think? Nudists aren’t stupid, they bundle up.” Of course, those crafty nudists, they bundle up. And we’d fly down Highway 60 at 85 miles an hour.

Then we hit the Twin Cities for a day of shopping or whatnot. We’d load up with supplies, maybe catch a movie or if we were lucky, a Twins baseball game—really lucky if it was bat day. Free Louisville Sluggers for every kid under 15. Through the deafening din of stadium pounding bats, we’d hear the announcer over the public address system, searing in my mind the names: “Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Earl Battey” and especially “Coming to the plate¼Ceeeeesaaaarrrrrr Tovarrrr.” The stands full of farmer tans, summer dresses, smells of sweat, automobile grease and hair tonic. People high on Cracker Jack, Frosty Malts and beer, cold beer, going Lutheran wild.

After the game we’d load back up in the car. Sometimes we’d stop for burgers, and when we were finished, Dad would yell, “Clean up the car kids,” and we’d grab all the Coke cups and wrappers and hand them up to the old man and zing, out the window with them. We’d watch as the bag hit the tar and explode. “Hey, there’s my Coke cup, there’s my french fries.”

“Damn it,” yells Dad. “Who put that bottle in there? Now my case is gonna be one short.”

And we’d fly up Highway 60 at 85 miles an hour past all the farmhouses. All of a sudden Dad says, “Watch this kids, magic.” And all the lights went out in all the farmhouses. Then he says, “10:30,” without even looking at his watch. I thought he was like the amazing Houdini starring Tony Curtis, when in fact Dad knew that Walter Cronkite had just finished the 10 o’clock news and all those farmers were off to bed. As I nodded off in the way back by the rear window, the moon lighting the countryside like a black-and-white photograph, my dad was magic and behind every tall fence was a nudist colony.