Childhood tends to be remembered as a menagerie of cars and houses, and mine was no different. When I was a kid, we went through several different cars. We had a Ford Grenada, a Ford Pinto, an MG Spitfire, a Porsche 914, Buick Regal, a Renault, a Camaro and a Cadillac. We drove everywhere in these cars, from Memphis to the Gulf Coast and Chicago, to Pickwick and Sardis, countless trips to my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ houses, to Montesi’s, Central Hardware, downtown to take my father to work and to the liquor store. My dad went to the liquor store a lot, though we kids had to stay in the car while he ran in. I never knew what went on behind the doors of the liquor store. In my mind there were naked women dancing around. Seriously. That’s what was taboo in my prepubescent head – nudity. It couldn’t simply be that there was booze in there, because there was booze everywhere. It was also the 70s and must have been safer to leave your two or three kids in the car with the windows down while you ran in for a bottle of scotch or rum or gin.
Tonight, on the way home from work, I had one of The Quartet with me and needed to stop by the liquor store for a bottle of wine. I debated with myself the whole way there as to whether or not he should come in with me. I didn’t see any reason why not, but something told me he shouldn’t, not because I think a liquor store is some sort of den of iniquity, but simply because I wasn’t allowed to at his age so neither should he. I silently talked to myself the whole way there about the situation, shaking my head and shrugging just the way my mother does, and finally decided, as I pulled into the parking lot, that he should stay in the car. I have no good reason for that. More reason, in fact, for him to come in with me, what with all the crazies out there eyeing my 1991 Volvo 740 wagon. The car could easily be taken with one of The Quartet in it. I really questioned my decision when I got out of the car and was immediately panhandled by one of our quaint, Midtown denizens. But I’d parked right in front of the store, had locked the doors and could see the car the whole time from the Pinot Noir display and the front counter.
So the trip ended safely and neither the car nor the kid were stolen. The kid barely escaped a visit to Gomorrah and I was left with a nice bottle of wine and the nagging disappointment, as an adult, that there are no naked girls dancing behind the door of a liquor store.