After responding to Wendy's shout out, it appears that I might be included in a blurb in Cookies Magazine. Honestly, I'd never heard of it. It's a parenting magazine. They recently asked for suggestions on how to get your child to talk more, about what's going on in his life.
Having raised all of one entire child, I sent in my tip. Brian and I concocted a game "Tell Me Something I Don't Know." It was a volley-ing game, sometimes rapid-fire until one of had to profess "that's it, I got nothing, you know everything." Some days I'd learn his history teacher's first name. And other days I'd hear something big, a conflict or frustration. And of course, he heard the same from me.
I'll go first.
There are actually one or two of you that know this about me, but most of you have no idea. And in light of the subject being brought up several times at my recent 25th High School class reunion, I've decided to go ahead and tell it.
I grew up a member of the pit crew of a drag racing team. My father's car, my father's "team." A 1937 Fiat with a 427 big block Chevy engine. I was just a rug-rat underfoot at the track every Saturday, trying to keep myself occupied. When I was about 10 years old, I began asking if I could help.
Sure, Dad said. I could be in charge of tire pressure. Filling the tires with air, and more importantly, letting the air OUT of the tires...just so. A drag tire needs a bit of room, it heats up and expands during the pre-race burn-out. And you don't want it hard as a rock; it has to be nice and soft so it can grip the track.
My sister joined in, and Mom took over the truck, and by the time we were 14 & 15 years old, we had ousted all of the men from the crew. I can still recite the firing order of an 8-cylinder chevy engine, with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.
When I turned 16, my father promptly borrowed a helmet and firejacket, and strapped me in. 5 seatbelts—one over each shoulder, one up each hip, and one between the legs—harnessed in to a circular contraption in the middle of my stomach. It had a quick-release; you just punched it and all the belts fell free. Good for scrambling out of a fire. Aww, I never scrambled out of a fire. And though I warmed the car up on the weekends, I never raced it.
As you may be able to tell, this racing stuff played a major part of defining who I am now:
I don't work on my own car, but I have a clear idea of what all the parts are, what they do, how they go together, and how they should sound.
I have an easy, mechanical understanding of most other things also, and I never, EVER have to recite "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" before tackling a lightbulb, bolt, or faucet.
Scrutinizing and observing and double-checking water valves and lug nuts and gas lines did, I believe, roll over into making me a somewhat observant person, noticing details in both material objects and people. I take note, easily, and rarely lack things to think about, draw, or write about.
I'm a hardworking, responsible chick, always have been, always will be. When Dad agreed to let us take over, it was with stipulations: We had to be reliable. Girlz don't go out on Friday night if the car isn't ready to hit the track on Saturday morning. No car, no dates! !!!
There were a few crazy Glory Moments, and I'll share one that always made Dad proud to recall.
We once had a string of problems with the transmission, and had to just roll the car back on the trailer for the day. Two weekends in a row, we assisted with the removal of the transmission, only to find, on a third Saturday, something was still wrong.
We pulled back into the pits, and Dad ordered, "Drop it." The announcer got word, and encouraged the spectators to join our area, watch the fun. My sister and I pulled pins, dropped the floor out of the car, lifted the body up and over, and put the chassis up on jacks. We were familiar, by then, with the location of every bolt and the size of the wrenches we needed, and as crowd gathered, Dad sat back and watched us drop the transmission, in a matter of minutes. Not bad for a couple girly girls with ratchets, eh?
Yeah, we knew what we were doing, and received a trophy or two for it. Some semblance of this shot ended up in a magazine somewhere, a pitcrew award at a national meet in Indianapolis.
And when the season was over, we began immediately to tear the car to bits, readying for show-season. A show-car cleaning can take months. Besides removing dirt, and polishing chrome to a mirror shine, every bolt is removed, soaked in solvent, and cleaned out with toothpicks and Q-tips. I am not making that up. The garage was heated, but a concrete floor can chill you to your tailbone when you're sitting or lying on it, polishing the underside of the chassis.
One year we had little time to get the job done right on our own, so I put a shout out to the boys in my high school shop class: Come over. Every night this week. We need help. (Yes. I did get the top score in my shop class.)
The garage was full every night, and with their help, the car was ready to be suspended over a floor of mirrors in 4 days time. Here's a scan from a ratty old pic. Note Teri (my sister), Mom and Dad sitting in the background, probably dying from boredom.
Overall, it was a fantastic way to grow up. It was a lot of hardwork, and pounding sun in hot black uniforms, yes. But it was a fun, family endeavor that allowed us to meet wonderful people, make great friends. We laughed a lot, and in the interim, walked away with a lot of knowledge, lifeskills, experiences and memories.