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Mother's Day

Mother's Day
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Sometimes I reflect on my "car guy" lifestyle and think about how lucky I am and how much my Mom encouraged me to follow my passion. I'm sure the things she did to encourage my interest in cars explains how I was able to turn my car dreams into reality.

My mother's father loved cars. He worked for Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. or what we know as Exxon-Mobil today. When I was a toddler he made me a suit with flying red horses all over it. We called him Papa Socony and I remember him driving a shiny black 1938 Chevrolet coupe. Later, he traded for a shiny black and white '56 Buick. Mom bought me a shiny grey Champion "Torpedo" pedal car with red wheels, a red seat and gleaming chrome hubcaps.

In the late '50s, when I was 10 or 11 years old, Mom would drive me around our hometown of Staten Island, N.Y. every Wednesday afternoon to look at the old cars people owned. Back then there were cars like a maroon 1931 Buick coupe with black fenders parked on the streets and in everyday use. There were still Model Ts in driveways and backyards. Mom and I knew where old the old cars hid out and we checked on them every week. I never thought I would ever own a 1930s car, but I sure wished I could have bought a few back then.

We lived in a small apartment without a driveway, a garage or a backyard. There was no room to keep old cars and it wasn't until many years later that I did finally get my 1936 Pontiac. But I'm sure the desire that Mom encouraged back then shaped my life.

In the nid-'60s I worked in a Manhattan office building for a year. (In fact, one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on 9/11 flew right over the building I worked in.) Then I got a job as a salesman with a company car. I did not need a car of my own until 1972, when I decided to go back to college. I wound up with a '54 Chevy at a time when 1950s cars were just getting collectible.

Within five years I had started writing about cars on a part-time basis and discovered that I loved it. Then, in 1978, I got a job with Old Cars Weekly, a hobby newspaper published in a small Wisconsin Village. So we moved from the Big Apple to God's Country. After that, I only got to see Mom a few times a year, but we both knew that she had inspired me to a new life that I loved.

Mom passed away in 2009, when I was just starting to get into motorcycles. All my life Mom had told me to stay away from motorcycles because many years ago (when bikes weren't as safe as they are today) a friend of hers got her legs caught in the spokes of a motorcycle. So, for nearly 60 years, Mom said "no motorcycles!" But when she was close to the end, I visited her in a nursing home. She looked up at me and said, "John, buy all the motorcycles you want to!"

I think she was trying to tell me that life is short and I should follow my dreams. And it is the dreams that she encouraged when I was young that give me a pretty good life in my old age.