“Is this one Ringo?” my sister, twelve years old, asked our brother Keith, who was fourteen. She was holding out a glossy page from her Teen Talk magazine.
“You’re so stupid,” Keith replied and slumped back against the blue vinyl of the inside car door. The vinyl had a plastic smell.
My mother turned her green kerchiefed head and leaned over from the front seat, “Why can’t you answer Diane?” she asked, addressing Keith.
“Because everyone knows that’s Ringo!”
There was a pause; “Wow, it says here that 1957 was a big year for UFOs,” my other brother, Garith, eleven, offered to no one in particular. He was reading the latest issue of UFO magazine.
“That explains where you came from,” remarked Keith.
My family was traveling by car from Massachusetts to Florida to stay with our grandparents for two weeks. We made this trip every winter. My three older siblings were stuffed in the back seat of our 1964 Pontiac, and my parents were in the front seat. My father was driving, of course. He and my mother would talk occasionally, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying as I, the youngest at seven, was way back in the third seat. The only time I could hear my parents was when my father got lost and screamed that it was all my mother’s fault.
We had just stopped for lunch, and now it was Surprise Time. Surprise Time was when my mother gave us each a magazine or a toy. I looked forward to this! My sister got a Teen Talk magazine. Garith got a UFO magazine, and I got a sticker book. I liked having the third seat all to myself. I had my stuffed animals, Doggie, Donkey, and Lambie with me and a half-eaten apple.
I opened the sticker book and stared at it in awe. Half of the book was just gray outlines, but in the other half were stickers in full technicolor. This was a Barbie sticker book. And Barbie was in all her glory. There was Barbie in a ballgown, Barbie leading a parade, and Barbie in her bathing suit. It went on and on. Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, was pictured, also, but he was of scant interest. Ken always had the same short hair an plastered-on smile. And he only had one outfit, a white golf shirt, and tan pants.
I pressed out a sticker of Barbie skydiving and licked it with my tongue. It stuck to my fingers. I could smell the glue. Then I searched through the pages for the outline that it matched. I found it and pressed the sticker onto the paper. It was marvelous. I stared at it. I loved the way it both fit in the outline and brought the outline to life with glowing color.
I couldn’t understand why my brother, Keith, didn’t want a surprise. He’d told my mother this before we left our house, bleary-eyed, that early morning, two days ago. When Surprise Time came along, I stared at the back of Keith’s head. He was slumped against the car door as usual. I didn’t know why.
Suddenly, a song that was different from all the rest came on the radio.
I wanna hold your ha-a-a-a-and…
The sound swept even to my seat in the back. I put down my sticker book. My father shut the radio off; “What kind of music was that?” he asked out loud.
“Ahh…” began Keith.
“It wasn’t music, just a bunch of sounds,” my father continued.
“Bad sounds,” added my mother.
“That was the Beatles,” announced Keith, sitting up.
“The Beatles?” replied my father. “What a ridiculous name for a band, the Beatles!”
“The Beatles!” my mother chimed in.
We couldn’t hear the song anymore, but its chorus kept ringing in our heads. No one said a word. Now and then, though, my father would mutter to himself, “The Beatles…”
“It says here that UFOs prefer the mid-west,” offered Garith.
In a way, our family was like a group of aliens, speeding down the interstate in our blue Pontiac with the fake wood panels. Every time I looked out the window, I saw sights I’d seldom seen before…factories with belching smokestacks, huge billboards, and hotels with neon sign. From outer space, our family car wouldn’t even be visible, yet here we were.
“We’re being invaded and we don’t even know it!” exclaimed Garith.
I certainly didn’t know this. I picked up my apple. It was getting browner and browner. I held the apple in my outstretched hand; “Gar,” I called out, “Wanna finish my apple?”
Garith looked over at the half-eaten apple in my hand. He shrugged his shoulders; “Sure,” he replied, taking the discolored fruit from me.
Then, my father turned the radio back on and the same song was playing again.
Oh yeah, I tell you somethin’
The music resonated through our vehicle in waves, one verse after another. My mother’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, Jeez,” my father bemoaned; “Well, I guess if you can’t beat ‘em…”
The music was building to the chorus. We waited in silence. My sister’s Teen Talk magazine fell to the floor.
Then the chorus started, and my father reached over and turned up the radio as loud as it would go. “I wanna hold your ha-a-a-and!!” my father sang along with the radio. I bet the Beatles would’ve been surprised to hear what was going on in the Cresswell family car.
Then, the rest of us, including Garith, who didn’t like to sing, and Keith, who was too old for Surprise Time joined it. And I think that our voices could be heard very far away, maybe even in outer space.
Cyndi Cresswell Cook has been previously published in The Raven’s Perch Literary Magazine and is working on a memoir.