by Betsy L. Haase.

SUNDAY DRIVE72166_Edible_SouthShore_I010

Daddy kept a salt shaker in his car. It came in handy when he found a farm stand. He loved native tomatoes and would, no doubt, swipe the fruit across the fabric of his trousers and then eat one out of hand. The salt perfected the experience.

My father had a week-long Sunday Drive as he traveled alone throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts selling and servicing cash registers and adding machines. But he never seemed to tire of traveling and was always willing to take a family drive.

Our family—my father and mother, my kid sister Dede, and I—would load into our station wagon with our sweaters, in case it got chilly. We cranked the windows down and headed out for the country.

Our drives cemented the landscape into my mind’s eye, so that even after we moved when I was 12, the steel-blue choppy waterways, the crumbling stone walls, and the coastal farms continued to define home.

I remember my cheek against my sister’s as we “mooed” to the dairy cows out the open window. Her dark hair, caught up in two high bunches like an extra set of ears, tickled my face as she bobbed up and down. “Was it true that there would be rain if the cows were lying down?” we asked.

There were no seatbelts in the 1960s and we bounced around the backseat. The cash registers clanged in the rear. It was only a matter of time until Mom, seated in the front, was annoyed.

That’s when my dad began singing. He had a wonderful voice and would begin to croon—Broadway tunes and popular songs from the radio. It worked like a charm as we immediately joined him.

Follow the hand scrawled sign and head down a long driveway. Listen to the pebbles as the tires of the car take us to parts unknown.

“There it is!”

Our voices are a choir. A weathered shack with seafood-to-go becomes our Sunday discovery.

My sister and I share a pint of fried clams. The red and white checked container is overflowing. The tender clams are sweet. We squirt ketchup and vinegar from plastic containers. My sister’s lips are a ring of red.

There was always a treat at the end of our excursion. It might be a cone of homemade strawberry ice cream or a bag of fried donuts sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.

Our bellies are full on the ride home. Dede sleeps; the pattern on the vinyl seat makes momentary imprints on her face. I feel the breeze from the open window as my pony tail sways slightly.

In the front, my mother drapes her sweater loosely around her shoulders. My dad’s free arm rests across the long, bench seat.

He hums softly at the wheel.

Betsy L. Haase writes and teaches writing in southern New Jersey, where she continues the family tradition of Sunday drives.