The Color of Her Volkswagen


The Color of Her Volkswagen


Atlas blue. First Bug I ever saw.
It showed up one day, a shiny little thing
in Miss Kay’s driveway two doors down.
Their old Dodge long gone.
People on our street drove Chevys or Fords,
nobody even knew how to say Volkswagen,
were skeptical about a foreign car, but
Miss Kay packed up picnic basket, playpen, her toddler son,
the baby, her Coppertone oil. There was room
for my sister and me. I rode in the front,
watched Miss Kay shift the gears, her pedicured feet
depressing the gas pedal, working the clutch
like an extension of her body. She tuned
the radio to WFBR, the Four Lads sang
Standin’ on the Corner Watchin’All the Girls.
She didn’t like rock n’ roll.
When we got to the swimming place, an old
quarry now flooded with water, now a club
where you bought a daily membership,
the loudspeaker blasted my kind of music—
repeated every hour. We ate peanut butter sandwiches,
Miss Kay plunged into the water from a dock.
She wore a green bikini, adjusted the top
over her small breasts when she emerged from the water.
I slathered on her suntan oil, bounced the baby.
Around us, teenaged girls mixed iodine and baby oil,
greased up their arms and legs and shoulders,
lit Newports and blew smoke rings.
I longed to be like them. Homeward, the blue VW
rolled up and down country roads back to the city,
steaming streets, dried little lawns.

[Reprinted from Maryland Writer’s Association magazine, Pen-in_Hand, January 2017]

Catherine  Mumford Cave, Miss Kay in this poem,  shuffled off this mortal coil on September 22, 2016.  She was a kind  and inspiring neighbor who shared her talents as a cook, gardener, seamstress, and all around cool adult with the neighborhood kids. She also gave me my first babysitting job. I wrote this poem last winter.


4 thoughts on “The Color of Her Volkswagen

  1. Loved it – [My daughter} had a powder blue Volkswagens – there was something about those cars – they stick in your memory, of all the things you did…. And of course you caught it just right. Loved the picture! Can just smell the Coppertone oil and hear “The Four Lads”……….A time gone by that once again you caught just right!


  2. Oh how i love this one! The memories of our first Volkswagen ride, the swimming hole of our youth, our lovely neighbor Miss Kay — remind me how lucky I am, not only to have had those childhood experiences witth my sister but also that she can capture them so well.


  3. What an evocation of an earlier era, details perfect down to taking the baby’s playpen to the beach — and the mixing iodine and baby oil to make that perfect tan. Horrors! I like the poem a lot and love the salute to Miss Kay.


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