My Sister The Carjacker

My (maternal) grandparents were especially fond of the Great Outdoors and every Sunday my sister and I bustled into their car where we would play a game or two before being lulled to sleep by the car’s engine.  One of our favourite pastimes was waving at other drivers on the highway.  Most people waved back.  Others would smile shyly or nod in acknowledgement.

road and lake

Another favourite was counting cars (how many red ones? how many blue?).  On the longer trips we took to counting windmills and when we ran out of those we counted goats.  (This was in Africa.  There are goats. And sheep but mostly goats)

Eventually – after what felt like hoooours – we would arrive at a park or farm where my gran would take it upon herself to choose the ‘perfect’ picnic spot and we would, after unpacking a small-sized kitchen’s worth of tableware and food, settle down for the first of several meals.  If it was Summer my sister and I wasted no time in changing into our bathing suits and diving into the river/lake/farm dam.  If it was Autumn, we did the same.  It didn’t matter that more than one lake or dam had warnings posted all over the place warning would-be swimmers of bilharzia and other parasites.  My grandparents didn’t read a word of English so if it didn’t bother them it certainly didn’t bother us.

My grandparents had a knack for choosing picturesque places.   Even if we weren’t exactly welcome in some of those places. Once, we settled down to a meal of fried chicken beside a slow moving brown river only to be interrupted by the furious farmer on whose property we found ourselves. I have no idea how my grandfather convinced that farmer to let us spend the rest of our day there under the shadow of a willow tree but we got to stay.  I remember that was the first ever willow tree I climbed.  I tested her fine leafy hair for strength and durability when I swung out and into that lazy brown river.

One day stands out above all the rest.  After our third or fourth meal under a tall and fragrant Eucalyptus my grandparents and parents fell into a deep and sonorous sleep.   My parents were with us that particular day which makes this day not only memorable but also remarkable because they were separated for as long as I remember and rarely took us anywhere.  I believe they had agreed to this outing to try and reconcile but it was like forcing a lion to live with a buffalo.

A cloud burst above the lake forcing my sister to think up of some new activity that did not require wind or water.  I of course, knew exactly what to do.  A new book waited for me in the back seat of my father’s car.  I seem to think it was Wind In The Willows because I can still remember those beautiful illustrations of Rat and Mole and Toad and elusive Badger.  Ignoring my sister’s baying for attention I got into the car, closed the door behind me and in no time was lost in the pages of a book.

My sister is younger than me but as you will come to see she is the more dangerous assertive one.  She got into the driver’s seat and started ‘vooming’ and ‘vrooshing’ behind the steering wheel.  At some point I became aware of motion – the slow, forward rolling of wheels. The car was moving.

This was not my sister’s first attempt at carjacking.  In fact – and yes, I know you are going to find this hard to believe- my sister and I were rescued by a neighbour after my sister released the handbrake on my mother’s car and we went rolling down our street.  I think I was seven years old at the time which means my sister was five. Said kindly neighbour managed to throw himself through the passenger side window (my side) and pull up the brake before we rolled through the Stop sign and into traffic.

I think it was an Act of Grace that woke my father from his afternoon nap that day.  While my sister screeched with delight at the prospect of drowning, my father forced the driver’s door open and saved our lives.

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32 thoughts on “My Sister The Carjacker

  1. Lucky that your “assertive” sister didn’t land you in hot water . . . or worse. That’s a great share. Too bad the Lion and Buffalo couldn’t reconcile, but it’s great that you had caring grandparents to take you on outings to green pastures.

    • My sister was a little terror Nancy 😀 not that I’m saying I was all sweetness and light but it certainly helped that I loved reading 😀 My parents made a few valiant attempts at making their marriage work but it was all for nought – very very different people.

  2. It’s to be hoped your sister grew out of her inclination, she certainly sounds a handful! 🙂 Aren’t these memories of childhood shenanigans enough to make you grow pale and shudder when, older and a little wiser, we are aware of what the outcome might have been. I am so aware of those moments of grace when events that could have been catastrophic were averted.

    I enjoyed reading this memory from your early years, I enjoyed getting to know more about you.

    • So glad you enjoyed this post Pauline. My sister is still a wild and wonderful handful. Luckily her husband now gets to deal with all that 😉 I find that many of us are only made aware of Grace when we reflect on past events. I know that only now that I am older and more open to ‘seeing’ and listening have I been made aware of just how many times I (and my family) have been saved or healed.

  3. Yikes Yolanda, what a story! Is your sister a racing car driver now by any chance? She certainly gave you a few adventures. I love the way you wrote this piece, bringing me into your picnics and I share with you a love of The Wind in the Willows. As a girl, we had annual boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads (a body of lakes and rivers) and it was there that I grew to adore willow trees and riverbanks so I imagined Ratty in his little boat and Moley and Badger living there and going on picnics. I longed to have a garden with a willow tree and finally, in California, I did. It was huge, in our front yard, the kids, particularly my daughter and her friend, loved to hang on it’s wispy but oh so strong branches and spin around! I can picture you doing just the same across the river 😉 I love how you describe your family life and tell reams about your parents – ‘like forcing a lion to live with a buffalo’ – in those few words. Sounds just like my parents :/ Wonderful writing, thank you Yolanda 🙂

    • Thank you Sherri 🙂 Nope not a racing driver but she is still a hellion – well known by the cops in her town (she lives in Portugal). Perhaps one of the wisest things she has ever done is marry a senior detective. I am pretty sure he helps her get away with ‘stuff’ 😀 Willows are very special. After that first time under (and in) the willow I gravitated towards them and still do (though there aren’t many here). Your garden must have been splendid Sherri.

  4. I really enjoyed reading about this childhood memory, Yolanda…your first time climbing a willow tree… beautiful memory. I had to laugh at the end because I had a similar experience as a child in a runaway car. I’ve thought about writing about it…I think after reading your post, I just might do that. 🙂

    • Jill I do hope you will share that memory 😀 Decades later I still find myself itching to climb trees and I would probably do so if I knew I wouldn’t get caught lol. Also why do some tree trunks look so puny? When I was a child every twisted and knotty trunk was a challenge 😀 Happy Weekend!

  5. Swimming in a brown river that might have parasites? Yikes! You were both adventuresome. Of course what did we know when we were kids. Life was so much simpler. Hope your sister learned how to drive properly!

    • It makes me sad to think (actually know) that I wouldn’t do it now. I’m okay with moving water but you won’t get me into any stagnant body of water – who knows what nastiness lurks in there 😦 of course back then we used to play in anything that resembled a puddle.

  6. It’s great that your grandparents took you out and about to create all those memories and that you could enjoy your adventures with the innocence of not worrying about the type of water you were swimming in! Your sister sounds very intriguing, I love that she’s married to a detective who can help her stay out of trouble 🙂

    • My sister is quite the character Andrea 🙂 I think she found her match in the detective – he is equally headstrong and determined but still, my mother and I secretly refer to him as “The Saint” 😀 (maybe not so secret after this)…

  7. I was like you were as a child, jumping into water from Memorial Day until late into fall. I taught my grandies to creekwalk, since only half of them have pool passes. It is a cheap way to get wet, explore and find things. I was smiling at your games you played in the car, we did this, my brothers and I. Also, I used to love those all day ongoing picnics my grandparents packed! Fun times and enjoyed this post immensely!

    • So glad you enjoyed this post Robin 🙂 My grandparents LOVED food and my grandmother was a phenomenal cook so if it wasn’t for all the swimming my sister and I would have been as big as houses 😀

      • I miss the quality of grandmother’s cooking, maybe being one should make me a better cook, but the two don’t go hand in hand. I am a ‘lazy’ cook, who will ‘rise’ occasionally to make something delicious, but mostly buy things already made. My grandchildren have their mothers, my daughter in law has her specialties, my oldest daughter is a great baker of treats! I live alone, so will open a can of Progresso loaded baked potato (with bacon) soup tonight, ha ha!

  8. So much enjoyed this story Yolanda.. brought back memories. Ah those were the days..carefree and totally irresponsible 😀

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