It’s the summer of 1957 at Disneyland with an assortment of family; sister, cousins, aunts, uncles and parents. My cousin Vicky and I are joyriding, the breeze is blowing through our kitchen haircuts and we sport happy smiles as we both steer the car on the track. It’s a harbinger to the time 11 years later, when on her 18th birthday my cousin’s parents will present her with her first car: a 1950 bulky burgundy Dodge, similar to the car in the photo, but more like a tank than a cool convertible. It was 1968, and Vicky’s “new car” was 18 years old, but it had wheels and she loved it, as did the rest of us cousins, who had no other mode of transportation but the LA city bus and our sore feet.

In that big old Dodge we frequently cruised the Sunset Strip, grabbing copies of the Free Press shoved at us through the open car windows, smoking Tareytons and ignorantly commenting on the radical articles in the paper. It was the late 60’s and we were rebels without a clue, liberally cussing and drinking and smoking without any real reason for doing any of those things, other than we were mobile and temporarily out from under our parents’ thumbs.

It was also the early days of drive-through restaurants. Coming from abroad, I had never experienced a drive-through and was bowled over by the ingenious concept of a person driving a car through a little alley, receiving customer service through a glass window from someone who wasn’t a bank teller and scarfing down delicious greasy food while barely tapping the brakes long enough to slow the car down; and while Vicky was somewhat notorious for tripping over her own toes, I was wowed by her uncannily coordinated ability to shift gears, maneuver the steering wheel, and engage the clutch, brake and gas pedals, all while eating and drinking the burgers, onion rings and Tabs that I passed over to her from the open door of the glove box serving as a food tray.

I don’t remember if the Disneyland photo of the two of us in the car was taken before or after I had crouched down in the middle of Main Street, USA, surrounded by my numerous and milling family members, to tighten the loose strap on one of my shoes. When I was done, I popped up, rarin’ for more fun, only to discover in utter disbelief that the entire family had disappeared. I began pacing in ever-widening circles in my traitorous patent leather Mary Janes, crying buckets of tears, gasping for air, and desperately searching the crowd for a familiar pair of knees.

I wasn’t in the habit of wandering away from the protective presence of my mother and father, and my child’s fear of being left behind had motivated my little self to develop a double-stepping bouncy kind of gait, skipping and hopping alongside my rushing parents, whose stride was so much longer than mine, in order to keep up. This habit continues somewhat to this day, because my spry 90-year-old mother springs out of my car to hurry into the grocery store while I gather my keys, my purse, my shopping bags and my wits, and scurry along behind her like a monkey with a parasol.

Abandoned among the crushing throngs of Disneyland I was overwhelmed with a suffocating panic, unable to hear anything but a weird whining sound in my ears, in retrospect, probably my own piteous mewling. Soon enough, though, my family re-appeared and found me in a messy, blithering, dizzy heap a few feet away from where they had inadvertently left me; but my gratitude quickly turned to indignation when, after hugging me, my parents promptly treated me to a dissertation on “WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT YOU GET YOURSELF LOST AGAIN.”

2 comments on “Dizzyland”

  1. Susie, you nailed it again. Wonderful commentary.

  2. Who are you? So wonderful..

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