In our backyard sits a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, baby blue shimmer with a white soft-top. It is massive, a mean muscle car with a monstrous-sounding engine and the softest seats that belie the badass exterior. It is so beautiful.
Right now it sits on blocks to keep pressure off the tires and rims from years of disuse. It’s wrapped tight in a custom-made cover to wick the elements away as best we can until we can restore it the way it deserves
It’s an eyesore, from the outside. It no longer runs, it’s very dirty and dusty. It doesn’t matter how broken down it becomes, how many repairs it will need, how much space it takes up, Adrian would trade anything in the world to keep that car.
And I will not ask him to.
I moved around quite a bit as a kid. Moving really makes you look at the things you own as fluid, somehow very unreal. You get so used to packing and hauling and loading and unloading and unpacking that you stop caring about physical things that you own.
I had two house fires as a kid as well, both total losses of almost all possessions. We still have our photos and some important heirlooms not kept at the house, but almost everything I owned from ages 7-18 is gone. No letter jacket or FFA jacket, no diaries or albums. Sometimes it’s as if those times never happened. I lost all my yearbooks and my diploma. I learned that physical things are no match for memories.
I spent years extolling the virtues of having no emotional attachment to physical objects. I didn’t care, I had lost everything before, so why the fuck does your letter jacket matter? Why do you need that one particular journal?
I met Adrian, then I met his car. I never broached the subject of getting rid of it–I knew it was off-limits and even more than that–I didn’t want to get rid of it. I cared that we owned it. I cared that we never let it go. That hadn’t happened in years.
He told me story after story about the car–how it came to be his parents’ and then his, his high school exploits with it. He was almost trying to sell me on keeping it, but I needed to convincing. I had inexplicably fallen in love with that car from the moment I knew about it.
The Oldsmobile was the first car Adrian’s parents bought when they came to the United States after spending 6 years escaping the communism of Eastern Europe. They bought the Olds, and then took their whole family–grandmother, themselves, Adrian and his sister–on a road trip across the US because freedom of travel was a totally new concept to the family. Never before had they had the freedom to choose, to move around, to live as they saw fit. Never before were they given the choice to make their own destiny.
They came to America to give their children good lives, to give them education they didn’t get and a life they had never dreamed could be. They pushed themselves, they pushed their children. They never stopped traveling–from the moment they set foot in America they were constantly exploring the world and learning and achieving. For many years, they kept the car for themselves, even when they bought newer cars. For a while, they couldn’t let it go–the first symbol of freedom.
Adrian finally bought it from his parents when they tried to sell it. He couldn’t see it leave them, see a new owner, or (more horribly) be junked out for parts. He restored it in high school and it then became his symbol of freedom. Freedom to move, freedom to learn who he was and what he really wanted from life, free of interference from well-meaning but still unsupportive hands. The car became a part of his soul. He got a new car when he went off to college, left the Oldsmobile with his parents, lonely in the backyard.
We met, we married, we moved back to Dallas to strike out on our own dreams and destinies–his businesses, my writing, and the car came back to us again. It has become a symbol of freedom yet again. No matter how long it takes, how hard it will be, your life is your own to make of what you want. No matter how long it takes, how hard it will be, the Olds will ride once again.
Friends and family have asked why we keep it–why, if we aren’t going to drive it, we insure it and pay for its wrappings and make sure its cared for even now. Why don’t I ask him to sell it to the dozens of people who have given us offers? Wouldn’t the money be nice?
I’ve learned that physical objects hold memories like jars. You touch them and everything comes flooding back–good, bad, happy, angry, loving–and anything that doesn’t elicit that response is unnecessary. You can lose the jar and retain the memory, but often, I’ve learned, it’s just not the same.
Some things you can’t leave behind.