My mother drove a 1962 black Thunderbird with red leather interior. It looked like this.

Black Thunderbird

The car magically appeared after what seemed like years of scraping by, all of us working in our family’s dime store, eating a lot of bean soup and 29 cent chicken potpies. And then, boom, there’s this beautiful car. My dad didn’t do debt except for our house so he had to have paid cash for the car.

It didn’t hit me for years. My dad went out and paid cash for a black Thunderbird for my mother.  What were the pieces in that puzzle? I never knew. Was there a story, an argument, a debt, a bribe, an apology, a vying, an attempt to get her attention, thank her, appreciate her, or was he just simply trying to make her happy?

My mother wasn’t an easy person to make happy. Her sadness was cellular, would have been seen on an X-ray. She was never hysterically unhappy just very, very low key, suppressed, depressed. So it’s not a stretch to think that he’d saved up to buy her an amazing car in a big, flamboyant effort to make her happy. Did it work? I don’t know. She never said.

She was just 45 when she opened the driver’s side door and slid into that red leather seat, backed out of the driveway, and took off. She never talked about it but I know it made her feel different. How do I know?

I’ve been driving this for the past 8 years.


This is a 2005 50th Anniversary Edition Thunderbird convertible with a removable winter hard top with porthole windows. Who would think that my mother and I would share these very unusual things – Thunderbirds and husbands who would buy them and maybe a bit of the reason for buying them.

So now I’m thinking about buying a different car – a great car, a beautiful car, and more reliable. My Thunderbird is beautiful but moody. Its unpredictability makes for anxious moments, sometimes heart-stopping, and I can’t cope with a car that’s untrustworthy no matter how pretty.

I tell myself it’s not the end of the world.

A car is just a material thing and any car will get you where you need to go, depending on where that is.