Saturday, March 8, 2014

Tales from the Middle: The Worst Best Seat in the House

Fond childhood memories aren't
always all they're cracked up to be.
     Back when I was a child Middle Child, my family used to drive from northern New Jersey to south Florida for winter vacations. Along the way, we'd also stop in Chester, PA to pick up my Grandparents. That’s me, my older brother, my little sister, my parents and my Grandparents -- seven people in one car. Granted, my father’s Oldsmobile was big, but still -- seven people? And in those days, it was at least a two day drive. Plus, the car wasn’t just packed with us. There was food and toys and anything that couldn’t fit in the trunk. That’s a lot of people and stuff to be crammed into one car for a couple of days, but those trips were some of my happiest childhood memories.
How many people should you
cram into a Oldsmobile?
     First of all, I always loved travelling. Any trip was an adventure  for me, even if it meant being stuffed into a southward bound  clown car. On these particular southern sojourns, my father  always drove. My mother was always the navigator in the front  passenger seat. My brother and sister were together in the back,  nestled between Grandma and Grandpa, and I sat in the front  between my mother and father. That’s right – front row center. I  couldn’t believe how lucky I was to secure such a prime  location! Sitting up front in the “cockpit,” I had an unobstructed  view of the speedometer, odometer and clock, making it easy for  me to collect all the data required to calculate critical information  about the trip and enter it in my travel log.( Yes, I kept a travel log.) Meanwhile, my brother and sister were stuck back in the cheap seats. Suckers!
Pedro Sez, "You're
half way there."
     Being in the front seat between my mother and father gave me a taste of what it must feel like to be the most favorite child. I started having crazy thoughts. I knew it was a huge stretch, but maybe I was wrong about not being the favorite? Maybe all my Middle Child crap was just that. Maybe my parents really liked me best! I mean, what else could possibly explain why I would be given such a great seat? Maybe, just maybe, this was their way of saying, “We like you best,” without actually having to say it. I knew my mother and father wouldn’t want to hurt my brother’s or sister’s feelings, but what could say “You’re our favorite” more than being chosen to sit in the front seat of the car between your mother and father on a two day drive to Florida?
     I almost felt sorry for my brother and sister, all squished in the back,
seat-belted together between Grandma and Grandpa. Not that I didn’t love my grandparents, but what kid wants to be stuck between two old people in the back of an Oldsmobile for two days -- but what could I do? I couldn’t help it that my parents liked me best. It wasn’t my fault I was the chosen one.
Seat belt-less: life in the middle lane!
     It wasn’t until later in life (when my Middle Child Syndrome advanced to its current stage) that I realized the truth -- the real reason I was awarded “preferred” seating. You see, my father had to drive because my mother never had a driver’s license -- she got the front passenger seat by default. Grandma and Grandpa were wonderful people, but they were in their twilight years. They had lived a good life. If the car were to be struck by side impact, they’d be on either side of my brother and sister to absorb the blow, like human air-bags protecting the favored first born and the beloved baby. Meanwhile, I was the sacrificial lamb, or more like a sitting schmuck -- the first through the windshield if anything happened. Yeah, that’s right -- my front center seat was so “special,” it didn’t even have a seatbelt! Or maybe it did, and they just tucked it into the seat where I couldn’t find it.
     Now whenever I go to Florida, I prefer to fly.

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Middle Children need to be heard!