My Mother’s Thunderbird

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.

17 thoughts on “My Mother’s Thunderbird

  1. I wanted a sports car REALLY REALLY BADLY. I finally got a Miata, five on the floor. It took off like a bat out of hell and got me to work a full ten minutes earlier than anything else I ever drove. Sadly, by the time I got it, getting into it was easy. Gravity dropped me in place. Only a skyhook could get me out … and it had the worst rear vision window ever designed. Every time I had to go backward, I was sure I’d hit something. And not too long thereafter, I realized that my sports car driving days had passed me by. But I had a few months of getting pinned to the seat as I cut through traffic on my way to work. At least, however briefly, I did it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never owned a sexy car though I do understand “cellular sadness”. (OMG, Jan, your gift with words makes my eyes bug out sometimes like that combo did.) And I’m lucky in my life-mate, too, who, although he doesn’t make extravagant purchases (that’s my bag), he gives in many other ways. Reliability is far more valuable than sexy – in cars and in people. Maybe reliable IS sexy, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes I think having one spectacular car in your life is enough..I, too, now have a serviceable non-sexy car after having a couple of mobile art pieces. They serve me well and my interest has shifted to other areas.

    Your article was in the July issue of the Ojo. You can see it online. I got you a print copy that I’ll mail to you when I’m in the states in Oct. or Nov. Do you want more than one copy?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is one pretty ride! Love this story. My granny and my mom had sports cars into their 60s and beyond. My last car (stolen for parts) was a beloved red Honda del Sol (now out of production.) I’m waiting til I can afford a Boxster to replace it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. oftpaster

    What a lovely car – and a story well told. About that time (1962) I begged my parents to buy a car with tail fins, but they never did. I later realised they couldn’t afford to even if they had the desire.
    These days (like you) I am torn between style and practicality in cars.


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