Monday, August 11, 2008

Drivin' Miss Bessie

My daughter just returned from a week at the beach. The family she stayed with had seven children; thus, the beach house was named Seven Seas. I mentioned it to a friend who asked, “Why do we name our beach houses? We don’t name our regular houses,” which made me think, why DO we do that?

Having never owned a beach house, it’s hard for me to answer that one. I can say that, growing up, all of our cars had names. I particularly remember my mom’s green 1964 Chevrolet, Bessie, and my dad’s blue Ford, whose name I can’t repeat. Bessie, like a lot of women, some might say, had to be sweet-talked, or she wouldn’t budge.

Bessie would often give out on the way back from my grandmother’s house in the country. Each week, a mile or two past Smith’s mill, she would slow down and start to sputter.

“Come on, Bessie, you can do it,” my mom would feverishly plead. How she kept her wits about her in the middle of nowhere with two girls prior to the invention of cell phones, I’ll never know.

At the thought of walking, which we had done before, my little sister and I would join in the encouragement in earnest, adding a chorus of PLEASE. Desperate, we would even throw in a few promises we knew we would never keep like, “Bessie, we’ll wash you everyday from now on, if you just get us home!”

Poor Bessie was thirsty a lot, too. She would often start to rattle and smoke, begging for a drink. Fortunately, Mom always carried a giant empty peach can filled with water for just such an occasion.

Even the car I own now has a name. The kids call her Ellie, short for Eloise, my husband’s grandmother’s name. It’s one of the names I picked out for a future daughter. Now, how that got bestowed on the car, I’ll never know. I think it happened the day she stalled in the middle of a busy intersection with two panicky children and a crying baby on board. The name stuck, and Ellie is pretty good about getting us where we need to go. And if I were to ever have another daughter, I guess I could always call her Bessie.

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