Please don’t ask me where these things come from…I honestly haven’t a clue. But this morning I was thinking about cars and the memories evoked by them.
When I was very young, I collected pictures of cars…cut them out of magazines. Not sure now what I did with them, but I was fascinated by them.
Each year’s new models were a cause of excitement. I probably got this from my dad, who I don’t think ever had a car for more than a year. Mom used to joke that whenever the ashtrays got full, dad would go looking for a new car. He actually won one, once…a little Nash Rambler, as I recall, though I don’t remember the details of how he won it.
About the time I learned to drive, Dad had a huge bathtub-shaped Nash and a Crosley, a teeny little car which never caught on in behemoth-on-wheels-crazy America. I remember trying to cross-wire it so I could take it for a drive whenever my folks weren’t around. The trouble with cross-wiring would be that shortly after I had the car running and moving, the wires would come uncrossed. And I remember that one time, after showing it off to my friends, I started to drive away, but they lifted the rear end off the ground and I couldn’t…there, rear wheels spinning crazily in mid-air.
I do remember being totally humiliated when my best friend, Gary, came over to my house the day he got his driver’s license. I was of course green with envy that he had gotten his license first, and when my dad said, “Well, you’ll have to take Roge out with you and teach him to drive,” I could have crawled under the carpet.
Still before I got my license, my folks and I went to visit my grandfather, who had a small farm, around which he was making a dirt road. While my folks were inside visiting I decided to take the Nash for a drive down the road. Dad had made the mistake of leaving the keys in the ignition, so I just got in and took off. I was tooling along probably faster than I should have through Grandpa’s corn field when the road took a sharp turn to the right and ended abruptly, about fifty feet further, in a huge mound of dirt. Not able to stop in time, the car shot up the mound of dirt and balanced there, like some giant teeter-totter, all four wheels off the ground.
My dad was not pleased.
Dad saw to it that I traded cars almost as often as he did, and I can’t really count the number of cars I had while he was still alive. I had a tinny little green Henry J while I was in college, a snazzy little red Ford convertible while in Chicago, a huge Buick convertible while in the NavCads, my grandpa’s equally huge Dodge after he died, which I had when I moved to California, a monstrous ‘68 Dodge Station Wagon I inherited after Dad died, and my all-time favorite, a little grey 1978 Toyota I bought off the showroom floor in Los Angeles and had for nearly 18 years. No one other than me ever drove it, and I loved it. Even after it died, I kept it, hoping irrationally to have it restored.
For awhile I had a large Mercury Marquee LST I bought from my cousin Jack after the Toyota gave up the ghost, and when it in turn died, I bought my current car, a 1999 Chevy Metro also bought off the showroom floor and of which I am also very fond. (At 43 miles per gallon, what’s not to love?)
To me, a car has always been primarily a means to get from point A to point B. I’ve never been big on bells and whistles and all those things over which other people drool and from which Detroit has made huge fortunes.
But as I look back on many of the cars in my life, they come attached to indelible memories. I sure wish I could walk out of my dorm at Northern and get into that little Henry J and drive home to Rockford for a weekend with my folks.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com: