Lovers & Latchkeys: Tales From a Greenwich Village Girlhood

Lincoln Continental

IT WAS my favorite of all, best because it wasn’t flashy like the stupid Cadillacs with the huge fins that looked like paper maché Flash Gordon rockets, or tacky like Oldsmobiles in two-tone combos that reminded me of the shoes worn by musical comedy gangsters. When we played the game of what car would you buy if you could buy any car in the world, I always said “A black Lincoln Continental.”

No chrome, and glossy as a black satin evening gown.

Actually, it was about the only make of car I could even come close to recognizing, and I didn’t care two Hershey bars about cars anyway. Almost none of my friends’ parents had cars, because what do you do with a car in New York City? But my father, destined to travel around New England with his heavy samples of toasters and steam irons, did have one. He kept his cream and turquoise 1955 Chevy in a city garage, and occasionally we would drive north, parallel to the Hudson River, to visit a woman he had met at the Stork Club or somewhere. She would knock herself out trying to impress him by making a huge home-cooked meal for us, usually roast beef and asparagus, and salads with huge hunks of blue cheese.

I could never do justice to these offerings, having eaten too many jumbo cashew nuts and downed too many ginger ales before dinner. It always took so long before food was on the table, and there was a lot of giggling in the kitchen while I sat in the beige-carpeted living room and watched Ed Sullivan by myself.

Sometimes after dinner I’d sit quietly for another hour while the woman gave me a Toni home permanent or something, and then finally we’d be driving home to the Village at night along the Hudson, and we didn’t have to make small talk with a stranger anymore; I could just look out as the lights of the other cars on the parkway blipped by, blurry white and red lights, and the windows of the houses and factories across the river in New Jersey were reflected in the river, sparkling and twinkling at us, safe in our green velour Chevrolet universe. The window felt cool against my cheek, but my feet were toasty warm, and my father’s tweed jacket was draped around my shoulders. I wanted Sunday nights to last forever.

It was dark enough to imagine, if I wanted to, that we were in a Lincoln Continental, but I never did. That would be pretend, and this was real.