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My Turn: Where Dad's car went -- the real story

Fred Lefkof, father of letter-writer Phyllis Weinberger, with

Fred Lefkof, father of letter-writer Phyllis Weinberger, with one of his cars. Credit: Handout

The cars were parked one behind another in single file on East 18th Street in Brooklyn. In the late 1960s, most cars were still American-made. There was a green Dodge Dart parked behind a rust-color Impala and a red Ford with a black roof. An array of colorful American ingenuity.

My dad's car was a light blue Pontiac Le Mans. It was a great car when it was in park, but if you tried to get to Ocean Avenue two blocks away, it would stall. We accepted the car for what it was. My dad would count to three, pant heavily and start the ignition again. Most days, it would get us where we had to go.

The car was truly the love of his life. Every Saturday morning, I would delight in joining him on a trip to the car wash. (I loved going anywhere with him.) There was a pail in the trunk with ready-to-use rags if needed. There was never a spot on the car.

Residents of East 18th Street drove their cars on weekends. By Sunday night, everyone looked for their spot for the week. "Got a spot" was the outcry of those who were fortunate enough not to circle the block for hours. The BMT subway line was only three blocks away and the buses were close by. No one needed a car for work. It was a weekend luxury.

I became a substitute teacher in 1971. My first day of work was also my first time taking the wheel by myself. The two coupled together were agonizing. PS 63 called early. They asked if I would cover classes. I promptly said yes, not realizing I didn't know how to get there. I decided to take my dad's car. I would have the car back in its spot by 3:30 p.m. Who would ever know?

It was a blistery winter day when I took dad's car key and started the Le Mans, knowing he would kill me if he found out. I rocked the car back and forth out of its snow space and was on my way. As usual, it stalled a couple of times. I was scared to death. The windshield wipers were not cooperating, either. Too much snow for them and not enough power. Sweat was beginning to pour down my face. My heart was racing. I couldn't see where I was going. I removed my fake pearl earrings and put them on the radiator. I didn't realize the heat would melt them onto the front of the dashboard.

After an hour of circling one avenue to another I made my way to Pennsylvania Avenue in East New York. Turning on a side street, I smashed the front of the car into a tree. Not too badly though -- it was still running.

I arrived at the school at 11 a.m. I apologized for being late and went on to have a successful first day of work. Getting back into the car, I was a little more confident I could make it home even though the snow was sticking and had become heavy. The car stalled every 20 minutes or so until I made it back home. The parking spot was still there. "Hooray," I thought, " . . . got the spot."

I figured the car would be covered in snow by the next morning and Dad would never know what happened. The front was dented, and the heater was draped in melted plastic. I was so nervous, I may have forgotten to lock the car. I can't remember.

The next morning, Dad asked if I would like to go with him to the car wash. In my readiness to spill the beans, I assured him I would love to, but I had something to tell him first. He smiled and said, "Tell me on the way."

We went downstairs, walked down the block, and the car was missing. It had been stolen! How lucky could I get! I regret never telling him the truth about my junket. It is the secret I kept from him. Sorry Dad. Forgive me. Didn't have the heart to disappoint you.

--Phyllis Weinberger, North Woodmere


Youth doesn't come in a jar


Is it just me, or are other women of a certain age tired of seeing some beautiful model staring at them from a magazine or TV commercial, telling us how in merely four weeks her wrinkles and lines have miraculously disappeared. She's all of 25 years old, for goodness sake!

Growing up, I noticed my mother and aunts had beautiful skin. They cleansed their face at night with cold cream. That was it. Simple! Then, but not now.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. You can't buy a skin-care product without having a degree in chemistry to understand some of the ingredients listed. There's an ingredient found in grape skin that is added to slow down the aging process, there are vitamins A, C, D, all properties of antioxidants, and let us not forget the all-important sunscreen SPF 15-30-40-50 and beyond.

Women at the cosmetic counter are daunted trying to decipher which product will produce the miracle they saw in the TV commercial the night before. The media and manufacturers in this billion-dollar industry are inundating us, hoping that baby boomers and women beyond a certain age will spend on new products where they "may see" a significant improvement and maybe a mirror that reflects a 10-year reversal in appearance.

If it doesn't prove to be all that, we just might wind up with a medicine cabinet that resembles a laboratory full of potions that don't deliver.

The dictionary describes youth as "the state or quality of being young" and "the period of adolescence."

Like the classic song of yesterday goes, "There is more to derive out of being alive. . . . If you're young at heart!"

--Diane Sciacchitano, North Massapequa

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