Dirt tracks and lots of dust. Pepsi out of a giant milk carton-like container. Being one of the boys. Hanging out at the garage before the race and in the pits afterward.
Orange County Speedway plays the backdrop to so many of my childhood memories. Every summer, this was where we went on the weekends. Feeling the rumble of the big block engines as they roared around the track made me feel alive, made me want to do something crazy!
I had dreams, when I was around 9 or 10, of driving one of those cars someday. If I had lived with my dad, who knows, maybe that would have become a reality.
I was sorting through a box of old pictures and found this:
I have a very distinct memory of this night, that may or may not be completely accurate. We were hanging out before the races in the stalls that held the 4-H Club cows during the summer fair. The fair hadn't started yet, but the smell of cows from past summers lingered in the air. I don't know why that was the place to be, but it was, and I remember thinking it was the height of cool to be there.
This was back when I refused to smile with my teeth showing, since I was the owner of a David Letterman-type tooth gap, about which I was completely self-conscious. And my hair - I wore it like that, to the side and super curly, because one of the women we hung out with at the races was always telling me how lucky I was to have naturally curly hair. I had heard that all my life from my mom, but no girl believes what her mom has to say about her looks, or at least, I didn't. One word from this other woman, though, and I made sure to keep my hair down, to show it off.
This picture is such a classic "Dad" picture. He was still working for UPS at the time, so he had to keep his hair short and his mustache trimmed. A t-shirt and jean shorts made up his off-hours wardrobe. This was about as fancy as it got with him. I would borrow t-shirts from him all summer, and I always took one or two home with me. I never wanted to wash them once I unpacked them, because they smelled like him. I only got to see my dad once a year, for a few weeks or a month at a time. He was the epitome of cool, the definition of "fun" and I wanted to have something tangible to use to escape when the real world of living with my mom, the "responsible" parent, got to be too much.
I wish I could talk to the girl in this picture and tell her to take more pictures, write more entries in her diary, about the stuff her dad and she did together. And I wish that New York and Florida weren't so far away from each other, so I could just hop in my car and go spend a little time with him this month.