I Remember Cars by Jan O'Neill

 
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It is a peaceful storm, snow drifting and floating, lulling me into memories. Years past, fall away like lazy snowflakes.  I drink coffee and reminisce about you, my sister.  My older sister whom I loved to be with, who took me on adventures before my time.  I remember cars.  So many memories. So many questions.  What has become of you and me and those cars from way back when?

Do you ever think about that old 1951 maroon Buick that you inherited from Dad?  That old rambly car awakened me and you.  I’ll never forget about us cruising down State Street, eyes flashing, smiling flirtatiously, as we passed carloads of boys, going 10 miles over the speed limit.  We had a blast together, watching for cops, in that beat-up old wreck!  You taught me the ropes.

 I dream about our dangerous and delicious fantasy of finding those handsome strangers who would fall madly in love with us on a hot July night?  You and me, sisters and partners in crime.  We stopped once and met some guys. One liked you.  I was a little scared about what might happen . . . the stuff we’d been warned about in church.  But we were wild enough to taste and savor the sensuality in the air.  Feeling slightly guilty, a little dirty, but not that much!  Too seductive.

When I was fifteen, I learned to fly.  That old Buick had wings!  Having just passed the state driver’s test, Mom assigned me to pick you up from work each day. I think your work was downtown across from Sears.  Is that right?   I was lost in reverie when I cruised, unaccompanied, on my own.  Hot damn!  Are you kidding me?  Fifteen years old and FREE!  I was a driving-queen. 

Did you take the wheel once I picked you up?  I don’t think so.  You were skittish about driving. 

That rear-ender you had one night, put you off.  Is this your picture of it?

We knew some kids- Dwayne and Susan, who were an item.  Dwayne had walked Susan home from church, holding hands, on that breezy summer night.  We silently crept behind them in the Buick, you driving, no headlights.  They were on Susan’s porch, with moonlight on their shoulders.  Was he going to kiss her?  We craned our necks to peer through the darkness for that moment of ecstasy, that exquisite silky touch of lips brushing against each other. . .  

CRASH! 

That crazy Buick you were driving rammed into a parked car, destroying the moment and dashing the chances of the kiss.  The car owner was furious.  The cop was forgiving.   You got off with a scolding even though you just had your learner’s permit.  After that, you didn’t want to drive at all. 

Those years, with that Buick, taught me about myself.   I loved the freedom, windows rolled down, radio blasting, long hair whipping.  I loved flying in that wreck, savoring every moment, taking charge, driving you when you were afraid to.

Going retro, did you know that Mom fell in love with Dad’s car before she fell in love with him?  As she tells it, she was walking down a dusty dirt road in that little town she ran away to, when he passed her in a shiny, brand-spanking-new, flaming-red car.  Who was that guy?  Delicious.  

Before the Buick, how about the time when Mom & Dad went to the high school for Parent-Teacher conference?  Upon leaving, they discovered their car missing. Can you envision make and model?  Year?

In my mind’s eye it’s Dad’s classic 1956 Chevy, Bel Air, two-toned.  After making the police report, Mom told us she was calm.  Funny.  Car stolen and calm?  She told us it was just a car.  We were all safe.  No one was hurt.  That was a moment of clarity for me.   

The missing car was a case of mistaken identity.  A woman, who had the same make and model, had driven our car away.  How was it that her key fit our ignition?  She called the cops, frantic, because “someone” had rifled through her car, stealing her radio!  I wonder, how she figured the radio was stolen, since the dashboard was intact? The story made The Standard and for years we had a good laugh over that one.  Shared, sweet memories.  

Was it really the ’56 Chevy?  Can you tell me?  It doesn’t matter.  But it does.  It is our collective memory of growing up together.  In the same family.  Folks who’ve lost their kin, don’t have anyone to ask those questions to.

In your mind’s eye, can you see the hot, 1961 Chevy Impala – turquoise and white, roll and tuck Naugahyde interior?  A used car, but brand new to us.   A beautiful car, a beautiful deed you did buying it for Mom.  And maybe for those occasional hot July nights when we were young.

When you bought that car, making payments, it was more than a hunk of gleaming metal.  It was a hunk of hope.  We were moving up in the world.  All those years of driving that Buick clunker were gone.  We weren’t clunkers anymore.

Before I started my senior year in high school, you drove me in the Impala, to Keith O’Brien’s for school clothes.  Mom just didn’t have the money.  Single parent, no child support, our little sister’s medical bills. So, you spent your money on me.  

 You were nineteen and working at the furniture store, where you earned enough that pay period to buy me two outfits.  They were rust and olive green, the colors Mom always said looked good with my red hair.  I envied your blond hair – so much sexier.

Blazers and skirts with matching striped turtle necks, those were my “go-to” clothes that year.  I felt like somebody in them.  I wore one of those outfits whenever I had an important person to interview for the school paper.  You were generous.  You were always good to me. 

Now we are called “older women.” Soon we will have to stop driving those beautiful cars.  These days I have a Subaru Forester and you, a Ford Ranger.  FORD!  How could you?  We were always Chevy women.

Our wild times are over and we only see each other occasionally, by happenstance.  We are polite and distant.  What has become of us?   Will that spark between us ever reignite? 

We are in the springtime of our final years.  We will live forever!  We will die with grandchildren and a sweetness of wild and luscious memories.  Our hair will continue to whiten as the snow continues to fall. We color it to chase away that demon age, and smile at the memory of those cars.     

 

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 Jan O’Neill

Jan is a retired educator who worked with and loved troubled youth throughout her career. Now living in the Silverfork community of Big Cottonwood Canyon, she spends her time hiking, snowshoeing, writing, reading, watching MSNBC and hanging out with her Golden Retriever, Roosevelt and her two felines.

She adores her role as a grandma.  Her two lovely granddaughters keep her laughing and grounded.

Traveling has always been a passion for Jan. She has traveled extensively in her life, including to Russia during glasnost and to Mexico for Spanish.  She loves rocks and collects them in every place she ventures.  Ireland continues to be one of her favorite places.

Even though she has been a writer all her life, she is not published.  She’s working to overcome her fear and jump in.

Jan plans to live to the ripe age of 100 for two reasons:  (1) she promised her granddaughter she would do so, and  (2) because she drinks a Guinness at least once a month.  Red wine much more often.

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