Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Porthole Envy

In--where else--Berkeley:

Years ago I published an essay about my dad having a mid-life crisis at the age of 32, and buying himself a sports car to cope with a mortgage, a wife and three small children. In the essay I described the make of the car, (a Ford Thunderbird), the color, (off-white), and the design (two bucket seats up front and a hard, bench-like seat in the back flanked by two porthole windows).

Immediately after the essay appeared in print, I received angry e-mails from Thunderbird fans all over the world. They informed me that I was mistaken about the design: Birds with round windows did not have backseats!

I dismissed the complaints as misguided fanaticism. I remembered those portholes. They were an important part of my childhood development and identity. Sitting in the backseat of the Thunderbird, looking out a round window, shaped my view of the world and my place in it.

I sent the essay to my father and brothers for confirmation. Danny e-mailed me back and claimed he did not remember the Thunderbird. Brother Bill was more emphatic. What in hell are you talking about? he asked. But my father’s response was the most disturbing. Susan, he wrote in an e-mail, we never had a T-Bird with portholes. You must be confusing our “square bird” with the “little bird” my friend Doc Thomas had. His was black. It didn’t have a backseat, but it did have those ridiculous windows.

Could it be possible that I never looked out a porthole window when I was a child? Did I only look into Doc Thomas’s oval windows and wish that I was looking out? Four years ago I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that my psyche was determined, in part, by those unique circular windows, and that everything I have said, done and thought since were influenced by my childhood round view of the world. It’s hard to accept that I am, in fact, just a common square-window person, masquerading as someone who is classy, cool, chic, and circular.

No comments: