Two Backseat Barbarians
by Eva Pasco
Before lap belts and harness seat belts were standard
auto features, my father would draw an imaginary Maginot Line along the backseat to keep my sister and I
at our respective windows. The gesture did little to quel our arguements on family trips,
prompting my dad to pull over along the highway to discipline both of us and inflict shame by calling
us barbarians ...
I shake my head and marvel how any of us children of
the Sixties could have turned out fine as I mind travel down my own memory
* My sister and I often sprawled out in the back
of our family station wagon with nothing to safeguard us against potential injuries sustained by
bumps or abrupt stops. We'd egg our father to drive over the
jersey bounds on
Cobble Hill Road as though our vehicle was part of a roller coaster train.
* My sister and I loved those smoking guns--cap guns, of
course. We also took perverse pleasure in pounding a strip of caps to see who could produce the
* Remember those candy cigarettes? My sister and I must have
smoked a pack a day as we strutted in our mom's vintage clothing, fake fur stoles, wide-brimmed hats,
and high heels like two Madison Ave. society matrons.
* My sister and I could never quench our thirst slurping down syrup from
wax molded in the shape of mini Vodka bottles.
* Like all children of the Sixties, we had our fair share
of skinned and scraped knees our mom benevolently painted with Mercurochrome. We even had
our temperatures taken with a mercurial thermometer. Now, we've all been scared silly about breaking one
of those new energy saving lightbulbs for fear of emiting Mercury into the environment.
* Unmasked, my sister and I inhaled plenty of toxic fumes
from spray paint and modeling glue working on our science projects.
* In elementary school, we toted our lunch to school in
metal lunchboxes without the benefit of ice packs to chill mayonnaise. We drank milk from slippery
glass bottles despite the high incidence of drop and splatter. Every kid we knew who carried
their own thermos had it filled with milk, the only beverage acceptable for growing
* Swamped with homework, we carried our schoolbooks like a layered
cake bound by a rubber strap, throwing off our gait at the hip. Although, today's backpacks cause our
youth to slump forward.
*My sister and I watched our quota of violent
cartoons such as "Popeye" and reruns of "The Three Stooges." Though our friends may
have nyuck nyucked, all of us knew better than to smash a plate over someone's head or poke our
fingers in each other's eyes.
I'm just one of many Baby Boomers who survived
such childhood ordeals, seemingly unscathed. Even though consumer advocates and politically
correct stumpers may have made inroads in the name of safety, the restrictive straight jacket of
the harness seatbelt couldn't prevent two backseat barbarians from brawling and invading
each other's territory.
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