Betsy’s Demise by Esther Johnson

I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts.  My mother remarried in January 1966, when I was 13 years old.  For their honeymoon, the three of us cruised across the Atlantic Ocean to Gothenburg Sweden.  My brother came to New York to see us off.  My mother decided to give him her new cranberry Ford Fairlane.  They had shipped my stepfather’s black Mercury Comet by freighter the previous week, so the car was waiting for us when we disembarked.  Two of my stepfather’s nephews owned a funeral parlor.  They purchased the Comet as a status symbol.

Upon returning to Springfield, my mother purchased a cranberry Ford Fairlane exactly like the one she gave my brother. I named her Betsy.  Betsy was the first car I ever drove alone.

Being a first generation American had a big impact on whom I was drawn to when making friends.  My friend Cindy’s father was a Polish emigrant and Sussy who was in my high school home room, emigrated from Lebanon.  In our senior year, Sussy’s Dad, a Minister in the Eastern Orthodox Church was called to a church in New Britain, Connecticut.

My Mom and stepfather let me borrow Betsy to visit Sussy.  This was the first time I would drive on highways without supervision.  On Saturday morning Betsy, Cindy, and I left Springfield for New Britain.  Connecticut.  When Cindy and I got together, we talked incessantly.  The trip down was uneventful.

Sussy and her mother had made traditional Lebanese food including stuffed grape leaves from leaves which grew on their own vines.

We started home at 3:00 p.m.  Betsy was feeling poorly.  She was letting gas as if she had eaten beans for lunch.  We stopped at a Texaco station on the Berlin Turnpike, and the attendant looked under the hood.

He returned, saying, “Your transmission is ready to die.  I added fresh transmission fluid.  Be sure to stay under 25 miles per hour.”

Betsy had 37 miles left to roll on.  Cindy and I prayed that she would have the stamina.  I used the pay phone to call home.  Mom reminded me to use my AAA card if we were stuck, and to stay off the highway so that we would be close to service stations.

We agreed to travel Route 5 for the balance of the trip.  Many times, I had to coax Betsy to continue on the next mile.  “Come on Betsy, you can make it home.”  We needed to stop two additional times at service stations.  It was late when we arrived home.  Sadly, that trip was the last time Betsy and I traveled together.

The next morning my Mom drove Betsy lovingly to Mutual Ford.  Mom was told that Betsy’s heart was beyond repair.  We had shared many fun times with Betsy but now all we had were our memories.

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