Summer of '58


One of the most uncomfortable moments I ever spent with my father was in the car coming home from an Orioles game in 1958. It was just my dad and me in our 1956 Rambler station wagon, one of the ugliest American cars ever made. It was late August, we had lost to the Cleveland Indians. I was depressed. I complained to my dad that if we had gone the day before we could have watched them beat the same team! What was wrong. If they could beat Cleveland one day, why couldn’t they beat them the next day?

Dad had punched my arm and said, “Guess what buddy, you win some and you lose some. We made a few good plays, what do you want?” I had eaten two hot dogs and I didn’t feel well. It was hot. We had all the windows down and about twenty minutes left on the drive back home to Ellicott City. That’s when things got weird.

I remember the radio, playing and the Chordettes were singing Lollipop. They were playing it every day that summer. Dad reached over, turned the radio off and without taking his eyes off the road, said, “Son, I’ve got to talk to you about the birds and the bees.” Then he didn’t say anything for a while because he was lighting a cigarette. I was completely blindsided. We were traveling at about fifty miles an hour. I seriously thought about opening the door and jumping!

“Do you know what I’m talkin’ about when I say, the birds and the bees?” I tried to say yes but it came out in a sort of croak. I don’t know if he heard it. I was trying to think about different kinds of birds when he said, “I’m talking about making babies. You don’t want to make a baby do you?” I wanted to say, “no,” in a normal voice but it came out loud, almost a shout. Even though I was looking out the side window, I could tell that he was glancing at me. We were passing a field with a herd of black and white cows. One of the cows was standing at the fence just looking at us as we flew by. I wondered what it was like to be a cow standing out there in the field. Then I started thinking about the baseball game again. I was trying to remember my favorite play. Maybe Bob Nieman going back deep into left field near the fence, snagging a fly ball.

“One of these days, girls will start chasing you and they will want to get their hands on you. Do you know what I mean?”

I said, “I guess.” In spite of trying to focus my thoughts on the game, Millie Lohman popped into my head. She had asked if she could put her sneakers in my locker on the excuse that her locker was full. I told her, “I guess so.” No one ever asked anything like that before and I didn’t even know Millie that well. Millie was new this year. I thought she was pretty. When she leaned in toward my locker her right hand landed smack on top of mine. Something went berserk in me. I tried to step back but I was trapped. Her body had brushed against mine and, double whammy. She kind of smelled like pineapples.

My mind snapped back when Dad said, “Well, You keep that thing in your pants! You understand?” That’s what he had to say about the birds and the bees. Then he turned the radio back on. The Coasters were singing, “Bring in the dog and put out the cat, Yakety Yak.”

06/11/2017 © Don Lehman