Yesterday's Magazette

6 – Black Beauty

Black Beauty

By Elizabeth Daub Vick

Her name was Black Beauty, and my grandfather loved her almost as much as he loved my grandmother, or so I thought she sometimes felt. I was only five-years-old but I remember one exchange they had when Grandmother said, “Howard, I sometimes think you love that old car more than me!

He smiled, hugged her and said, “Florence, look into my eyes and see if you can say that again!”

They both laughed and she pushed him away. “Whatever am I going to do with you? Go on now and take the little apple of your eye on that picnic!

I thought––even at the tender age of five—that he really hadn’t answered her question.

Being not very savvy in the ways of love and the world, I thought it was a very difficult question indeed, because I, too, loved Black Beauty. She was big, black, and shiny, with a running board any kid would have died for.

We left precisely ten minutes from the time Grandmother handed him the picnic basket filled with all kinds of real and imagined goodies. When Grandfather had everything ready, he yelled, “All aboard!”

I came running, leaped upon the running board and off we went. He had one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my arm, which always irritated me. I yelled into the wind, “Grandfather, let me go, let me go! I’m flying and you’re holding me on the ground!”

He laughed and said, “Not yet baby bird, you’re not ready to fly alone!”

We hooted and hollered as Black Beauty glided down the country road. My favorite spot was a flower-filled glade that had its arms wrapped around a “magic” pond. As Grandfather pulled Black Beauty into the shade of an old maple tree, I jumped off the running board and raced around pretending I was some wild thing. After a while I settled down and sat on a rock at the edge of the pond and watched frogs. They absolutely fascinated me—they were so beautiful and graceful. I watched them swim. They looked like tiny ballerinas dancing to the songs of summer.

While I was off doing my thing, Grandfather set up the picnic bounty. Underneath it all was the tablecloth I still dream about today. It was white linen, embroidered with a profusion of tiny flowers and green leaves that seemed to pull us into Mother Nature’s painted pallet. We had napkins to match, porcelain tea cups, lemonade, tea sandwiches, and yummy desserts. During lunch Grandfather asked me what I’d done that morning, and I had so many wild stories that he never had to ask another question. When he thought I was finished eating, he asked, “Wood Sprite, have you had a genteel sufficiency to satiate your corporality?”

I answered, “Yes, any more would go flippity-floppity, for my breadbasket is full!”

While I ran off to a new and exciting adventure, Grandfather cleaned up and then lovingly tended to Black Beauty in some way. When it was time to go, he honked the horn, which sounded strangely like a goose, and I ran back to reality. He had the car doors open, bowed to me and said, “Your carriage awaits Cinderella. Hop in quickly or old Black Beauty will turn into a pumpkin!”

Now those doors were amazing. The front and the back opened from the middle. It felt like stepping into the mouth of a grand cave. I sometimes sat in the jump seats, which faced backward, but most of the time I sat right in the middle of the huge back seat so I could look out the big windows. Best of all, I couldn’t wait to see what tiny wildflowers Grandfather had put into the little silver vases mounted on either side of the car’s walls.

By the time we got home I was asleep, so Grandfather picked me up in his strong arms and carried me inside the house. With my sleepy head on his shoulder, I thanked him and Black Beauty for a lovely day.

He hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “Little Princess of my heart, the pleasure was ours!”

[Elizabeth adds: My brother died when he was four and I was five. I think that’s why Grandfather loved me so much––he was afraid he’d lose me, too. Instead, I lost him not long after our picnic.]

(Beth grew up in Red Bank, New Jersey. She loved the Jersey Shore life and is never far from an ocean. After graduating from college she married West Point graduate Gerald Allen Vick, who whisked her away to a whirlwind life as a military wife for 30 years. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe and all over the United States. She and Gerald have two daughters, Elizabeth and Marjorie, and six grandchildren, all of whom are the treasures of her heart, and two dogs and a cat. She worked for many years as a school teacher and then settled into a dream job with Arlington County Virginia’s Senior Adult Program for 26 years. Always an avid Bridge and Tennis player, she has now added writing and painting to her long wish list of thing to accomplish before the next millennium. Beth and Gerald are retired and living in Arlington, Virginia, and Palm Beach, Florida.]

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