Fro-Back Friday! When Dad got Stuck in our Driveway

Norman with pennies on his head
My father could make almost anything stick to his forehead. It was one of his many talents.

The kids and I were in our usual positions; kneeling on the blue pleather-covered, retro sofa in the living room with our behinds facing the middle of the room and our noses pressed against the bay window, waiting for my parents to arrive.

Lucas and Veronica were always excited when they knew Grandma and Papa were coming over. My parents would often come to the house to visit before we’d all go out for dinner.

As soon as my father’s Lincoln Town Car pulled into the driveway, both kids bounced up and down on the sofa, causing me to bounce, albeit involuntarily. Physics. Can’t live with it; can’t live without it.1978_Lincoln_Town_Car





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Our driveway was wide enough for one car only, and as steep as a double-black diamond ski-run. At the bottom of the slope sat a one-car garage.

My Dad let my Mom out of the car and then decided to pull further up, which was, in reality, down  (oh, so down) the driveway. The only plausible reason for this was that my sister, brother-in-law, and their son, Joey, were coming over, too, and he wanted to leave room for them to pull up behind him.

It was so cold that year the Canadian geese, that usually hung out across the street at the golf course for the winter, completely bypassed Illinois and headed straight to Arkansas. Even though he’d placed the car in “Park,” Dad’s rear-wheel-drive car continued to slide down the icy driveway, inching itself closer and closer to the closed garage door.

Richard, my mom, the kids, and I watched through the front window of the house as my Dad’s car disappeared between the embankments on either side of the bottom of the driveway. We could see the back end of his car, but no Norman.

Richard ran outside and watched as Norman’s car stopped just short of the garage door. Richard came inside to tell us the good news. But the good news was short-lived.

Because of the embankments, my Dad couldn’t open his door more than an inch. If he had tried to slide over to the passenger’s side, he wouldn’t have had any better luck there. Even if he could physically climb over the back seat, those doors wouldn’t have been able to be opened either.

As soon as we realized what was happening, little four-year-old Veronica asked, “Will we ever see Papa again?”

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“Good question,” I thought to myself. How is he going to get out of the car? But before we could figure that out, he began trying to back up, only to spin his wheels which had the reverse effect, sliding him closer to the garage door.

I ran downstairs and opened the garage door to see if he would be able to slide in, get a smidge of traction, and then back out. But Richard’s car was parked in the garage, leaving Dad shipwrecked.

Time for some quick thinking. Richard and I sprang into action to rescue Papa from the Town Car. We placed floor mats behind Dad’s back wheels, as we tried not to slalom down the driveway ourselves. He put the car back into reverse but his wheels only spun and spun. They spun so much, in fact, that the smell of burning rubber triggered the smoke detector in the garage.

Ok. It was time for some more quick thinking. Richard and I tried to push the car back up the hill as Dad’s wheels spun in reverse. That may have been quick thinking, but it was also stupid thinking. There was no  way the two of us could have pushed that Titanic of a car back up and over the death-drop steepness of our driveway.

Finally, The Voice of Reason, also known as my Mother, said we should call a tow truck, which we did. However, it was going to be about two hours before the tow truck could get to our house due to the inordinate volume of calls the company had received about cars stuck on steep, double-black diamond ski-run-worthy driveways. Dad would just have to sit and wait in his car while we waited inside the house for the tow truck to arrive.


I called Dad on his cell phone to see if he was thirsty and wanted a Diet Coke, or need an old coffee can in which to pee. He she was fine and was even laughing about the situation.

Back in the house, we all just stood there waiting for the tow truck. If Dad was stuck in the driveway, we were going to be stuck watching him be stuck in the driveway because that’s what our family does. It made no sense, and makes even less sense when I think about it now, but we all stood there glued to the floor, as if we were trapped, too.

Finally, the tow truck arrived. A giant flatbed tow truck. In my driveway. had no idea what the guy was going to do or how he planned to get my Dad’s car out of the driveway, but he did. He somehow got these big metal things under the wheels of my Dad’s car and magically began to lift the car up — with my dad in it — using metal chains, and a hook that looked like it could support a prize-winning Marlin.


As we all stood there watching, Dad’s car was eventually dragged onto the flatbed. The tow truck driver returned to the cab of his truck and pushed a button that elevated the flatbed, the car, and my Dad as high as the 50-year-old Arborvitae trees that flanked either side of the embankments. As the driver pulled his truck out of the driveway, there was Norman sitting in his car waving at us as if he were in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I never would have believed it, but it worked. The driver lowered the flatbed, and then unhitched the Titanic so my Dad could drive off of it. He moored the car on the street, and got out to tip the tow truck driver as we all watched and cheered. He was a little stiff from sitting in his car motionless for two hours and he had to pee, but other than that he was fine.

We snapped out of our stupors of disbelief and did what we had planned all along. We went out to dinner. Nothing, not even a perilous mountain of ice, could keep this family from going out for dinner, because that’s what Chases have always done and always will.


Dedicated in loving memory of Norman. M. Chase

June 17, 1931-June 6, 2014

I was a Wannabe Teenage Valley Girl

I loved when we got to visit my grandmother in Palm Springs. She lived in the same apartment complex as her brother, Uncle Lou, and his wife, Frieda.

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Grandma also had a best friend named Frieda, so, on occasion, we weren’t sure which Frieda she was cursing when she’d say, “That Frieda! She should only croak!”


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That Frieda

Seeing Grandma was great, but, for me, the best part about going to Palm Springs was knowing we’d be spending lots of time with our friends from Encino.

They’d drive a couple of hours to be with us every time we were there, and stay in the condo next door. They referred to us as their friends from the East. Growing up 30 miles north of Chicago I always thought east meant New York, unless you were driving between Chicago and southern Wisconsin, in which case east meant Lake Michigan.

I was usually the only Chase kid available to travel with my parents because my much older brother was in college and then law school, and my much, much older sister was in grad school, or working. Maybe one or the other was able to join us from time to time, but most of the time it was just me, which was like, totally, Oh my God, far out fun!

Sharon is one year older than I. She and her parents came as a package deal of tennis, swimming, eating, and fun with her sister Michelle,  and brothers Marc, and Gregg. When they’d come into town, we all had such a blast it was as if the condos became an all-inclusive resort.

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Sharon and my Mom at the pool in Palm Springs

Sharon and I spent the entire time together because we were so close in age, and because we actually liked each other. You know how you go on vacations sometimes with people who have kids you have to be with but don’t like? That’s a drag and a half.

When Sharon turned 16 she drove separately from her parents to Palm Springs in her new Camero (I know!) The sun began to set behind the mountains at around 4:00, so Sharon and I would hop in the Camero (I know!) and cruise down Palm Canyon Drive being our fabulous selves.

One evening one of us (and I really don’t remember which one) thought it would be fun to see what would happen if we put Mr. Bubble in the Jacuzzi, so we stopped at a Long’s Drug store and picked up a bottle.

When we got back to the condos we changed into our bathing suits and went out to the pool area, which was right outside our sliding back doors. We didn’t go in the Jacuzzi  because we wanted to witness what we imagined would be a totally far out experience, Man. And, no, I have no idea where our parents were.

No one was at the pool at the time, and the sun had completely set, so it was easy for us to perform our experiment. We began by putting in a capful or two of Mr. Bubble and then turning on the jets. We achieved slight bubbleage, but not as much as we’d hoped. We had to adjust our calibrations precisely so we’d know the perfect quantity ratio to add in the future. We carefully and exactly measured out three or five capfuls. Better bubbleage, but not great.

We knew what we had to do to fulfill our mission, so we dumped the rest of the bottle into the Jacuzzi and waited patiently. After exactly, approximately three minutes, the bubbles got serious.

We watched and giggled as our concoction morphed into what looked like a solid, compact column of bubbles.

We burst out laughing when the column of bubbles became what could only be described as “The Leaning Tower of Bubbles.”

We became a tad concerned when the tower of bubbles split into tendrils, resembling a beast with many heads, one of which was slithering toward the pool.

When the Multi-headed Blob of Bubbles began to multiply and approach the back doors of all the other condos, we concluded that our experiment had most likely not been a good idea and ran inside, just ahead of a threatening swath of bubbles nipping at our feet.

In case you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you put Mr. Bubble in a Jacuzzi, our official answer is, “it’s not a great idea.”

Sharon and I spent the rest of that trip inside one or the other of the condos, where we were told to remain until the condo association was satisfied with the cleaning of the pool, Jacuzzi, and deck, financed by our parents. Upon our return home to our respective states, we each received fines and punishments.

But it was worth it.


Sharon and I, in matching Mr. Bubble t-shirt and tiaras, pretending to re-enact the crime in L.A. at her Mom’s house the day after her daughter’s Bat mitzvah.



P. S. Yes, male friends of ours, and you know who you are, this is THE Sharon you met at our wedding in 1986. I remember that you wanted to take her out after the wedding for a night in Chicago she’d never forget. I believe one of you, who shall remain nameless, uttered this famous quote to her father, “Don’t worry, Sir. We’ll have her home in the morning.” If I remember correctly, that didn’t exactly work out in your favor.