Depression-era parents like mine who wonder why youngsters are "grossed out" by folklore should keep in mind that it's their fault, not ours. Think about it, parents. Before having us, you worked your way out of whatever pestilent rubehole you hailed from, got educated and earned enough cash for a down payment on a snazzy split-level with shiny floors and central air; then you threw in TV, swing sets, Kool Pops, Fizzies, bongo boards, Legos and many other necessities of modernity. For all that, you are to be thanked. But then, just when we were peaking with the hormonal negativism produced by suburban life, you started carping about how we weren't interested enough in our heritage to care about lard, making dolls out of rags and nuts or "whittling," as in --

"Ellix, look at the nice pine- knot belt buckle your Uncle T whittled for you in the shape of a turkey head. What do you say?" I said, "Thanks," but I thought, "I'd like it a hell of a lot better if it was a Batman insignia."

Ex-brat compatriots, isn't it time for a book that preserves our lore and legends, those non- skills and non-events that seemed significant only because our sugar-fired brains didn't work right yet and everything else was so boring? We could call it The Nitelite Book or Mom, There's Nuthin' to Dooooo!, and fill it with chapters on timeless topics like "Killing Ant Piles With Chemical Potions Available Right There Under the Kitchen Sink"; "Handy Hammers, or How to Make Dad's Golf Clubs Work for YOU"; "Bottle Rocket Cannons: Your Key to a Sizzlin' 4th"; and the ever-popular "Croquet Unbound: Who Sez This Game Has to Be Nonviolent???"

Right now I'm working on a sprawling oral-history chapter called "Auto Their Minds," which deals with the wacky things adults do in cars. Like the time that mean neighbor woman drove through the net of your "street tennis court," or the time Dad gaily poured radiator flush in the crankcase. It was while researching this section that I came across the S---- family of Morningside, Md., who tell a car story that should elicit thrills of recognition from every former child who ever suspected that not all those adults behind all those wheels should be there. This family's tidy, two-story clapboard home fronts Suitland Road down the way and across the street from a lively honky-tonk that, for reasons you'll understand soon, we'll call the Juggernaut Hut. The house is in a dangerous spot -- basically, cars merging into traffic from the Hut's parking lot are pointed at it. Sometimes they've stayed pointed at it. "People make a left out of there and come past us," explains June, the strife-tempered clan's all-weather matriarch, "but a few times they weren't able to straighten out, or something, and they kept coming right onto our yard."

Result: Three times during one five- year period -- count 'em, three times -- Hut-launched vehicles crashed into the family stomping ground and its attendant shrubbery. A few weeks ago (at my behest, because believe it or not they had forgotten to schedule it), the family gathered to observe the 21st anniversary of the biggest autoblast of them all, the so-called Spring 1966 Incident, in which a beehive-hairdo'd woman throttling a '56 Pontiac came roaring off the Hut launch pad, following a trajectory that took her across a nearby driveway (where she put major crunchos on a Karmann Ghia and a Country Sedan), through the S----s' home-protecting chain-link fence, and within inches of a tiny evergreen, before her odyssey ended with a head-on slam into the porch foundation. June says the woman's four-wheeled calamity unit was "built like a Sherman tank" and was barely dented by all this piston- powered mayhem. Rick, the first kid to arrive on the scene, remembers that the woman peppered him with classic questions like "Who put this goldarn house here?" before staggering away in what June calls "a lame escape attempt."

She was not asked to the reunion.

During our anniversary-night ride to the besieged house, I ask Nancy, the family's senior female scion, to recount the incident that occurred these 21 years ago. "When the car hit, I was under the house on my stomach, playing 'Combat,' " she says. I ask: An uninvited projectile from Detroit whomps into your home, the place where you sleep and break your popsicles -- what were your thoughts? She sighs. "Thoughts? It was so . . . loud. I was 7 years old and, of course, I 'thought' it was the Krauts, so I yelled: 'Hit the dirt and start blastin'!' "

We arrive at the Hut. Nancy issues a tiny gasp and looks away. I back up and park. Toting slender white candles and making engine noises, we retrace the Pontiac's awful path, right past the barely spared evergreen. Though now grown to a sturdy nine feet, with the wind rustling through its needles on this blowy spring night, it almost seems to be saying: "Phew." Inside, I ask June to describe everyone's position when the Blast occurred. "Let's see." She pauses. "Mmm, Trudy was only 1 so she was snoozing. I was in the basement, cleaning. Alan was in the living room playing with his tape recorder. Father was bivouacked on the couch, as usual on Sunday. And Carol was here with Father. Anyway, I heard this thunderous noise and I said, 'God, Alan must have broken a chair!' Father jumped off the couch and said -- Well, I wasn't there. But he probably said, 'Cap'n Jiminy Crunch!' That was his favorite expression whenever something like this {cars bashing the house} happened."

Everyone sighs. I ask why there have been no Hut-related problems in recent years. "People there just don't . . . drive with that intensity anymore," Nancy suggests. "I think it has to do with the blander country-crossover-pop music introduced in the '70s." We digest that one and blink like people who have just put down a big meal, then June starts to describe the two other incidents: "In one, a kid ran over a fairly young tree in the front yard, and instead of the tree stopping the car, it bent over, and the car came up to the steps. In the other -- " She pauses again. "Oh, that reminds me. One time an airplane fell out the sky right in front of the Hut, rolled down the street and wrecked a whole house. Want to hear about that?" ^ZSome other time, maybe. I'm stuffed.