“There’s where the wicked witch lives,” my dad said, pointing to the same old, white house, with the slumping roof as we whizzed down the 110 Freeway. We were usually on our way home from downtown LA. My dad kept one hand on the glittery steering wheel of our dull blue Dodge Dart, his other arm stretched across the front seat to indicate the house with the American flag hanging across the porch. My dad had the longest arms in the world, as far as I was concerned, and when he pointed at something, his outstretched hand looked like the hand of God, commanding us to follow his deadpan interest in the very peculiar house off the freeway. He smiled slightly, and his steel blue eyes glanced at us to see our reaction, while my three siblings and I leapt up in our seats and leaned over to get a good look at the house.
“Where is she?” I’d ask. “Do you see her? Does she ride on a broomstick, what does she look like? Does she wear a pointy hat, does she have a black cat?” I rattled off the questions like an adding machine, given the fact that we were driving and trying to get a good look at the house. We were familiar with the stretch between Exposition Park and the Manchester exit, where our necks craned to locate the house. For some reason I always stared at the chimney, waiting for a witch to shoot out on a broomstick. The front lawn was dead and there were a few haggard-looking bushes on either side of the porch. We sped by too quickly to see the green-skinned hag inside. Just like every other time, all we saw was the same craftsman house, dwarfed by the towering rows of palm trees that swayed over the flat south-central Los Angeles neighborhood.
Not long after the Wicked Witch’s house we passed Gardena Memorial Hospital where my dad worked as an orthopedic surgeon. He pulled off the freeway, parking in the garage so we could go to the cafeteria. We grabbed a few Eskimo Pie ice cream bars for desert after our long day of exploring Los Angeles. He left my siblings and me in the doctors’ dining room and headed upstairs to the fifth floor to check on a couple of patients. He didn’t take long, just asked them how they were doing, looked at their file, came back and piled us back into the Dart. We headed home, continuing down the 110 Freeway. Finally we turned the corner off Sepulveda Boulevard towards our house. The car stopped abruptly right in front of the Nelson’s driveway. They lived on the corner down the street from us.
“Oh no,” my dad said. “Looks like we can’t quite make it home.”
“But we’re almost there.” My older sister Jill said. She was eleven. She turned to my brother in the back seat. “Mark, you can push the car the rest of the way.” My brother made to get out and start pushing.
“No Mark, stay in the car,” My dad commanded. “Let’s see if we can make the car go forward if we rock back and forth really hard like this.” My dad demonstrated how we should all be moving forward and backward with our shoulders, bending at the waist as if the motion would help the car move. “No, Claire, forward, not side to side.” My dad instructed through the rearview mirror. We all started doing it, at first, not in unison. Cars peeled around the curve and drove around us, the drivers looking at us bobbing our heads back and forth with completely confused looks on their faces. “All together, all together, that’s better.” Suddenly the car lurched forward and we slowly drifted down our little street, past the house with the basketball hoop in the driveway, the old lady pruning her roses, the young liquid amber trees and the house with the dead lawn. We slowed a bit near the tree that had broken in half when a drunk driver hit it. My dad had mended the tree with a cast as if he was fixing a broken arm. The neighbors thought he was completely mad, but three years later the tree was still alive. Our car squeaked past the fire hydrant, all the while my siblings and I lunging back and forth all the while, taking our job seriously. We spotted the standard poodle named Jacques that always crapped on our lawn. My dad swerved as if he was going to hit the neighbor’s dog, but corrected and angled into our slick driveway.