The Car

10/13/2013 · 23 comments

in I'm not funny here.

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.

Bill G. October 14, 2013 at 12:24 am

I have a co-worker with a 79 Cutlass. He calls it “the Gutless Cutlass”. It makes most lists of “10 Worst Cars Ever”.

Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:01 pm

what the fuck.

Pinky Poinker October 14, 2013 at 1:40 am

It’s lovely to hold on to something that has so much sentimental meaning. Plus… what a great wife you are not nagging him to get rid of it :)
Pinky Poinker recently posted..You know what Pinky REALLY hates?

Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I never really understood why anyone holds on to things until now. Now, I’d fight for that car in the apocalypse.

Mayor Gia October 14, 2013 at 6:44 am

That’s a big memory to hold on to! Good for you for being so understanding!
Mayor Gia recently posted..Let’s Talk About Gay Mormons and also Black People

Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Eh, I gotta be nice about one thing.

April October 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

When I was a child, my grandmother made a BIG DEAL out of A HUGE PRESENT she was giving me. She held my hand and carefully walked me up the stairs to the room with the crib in it that I begrudgingly allowed my younger cousin to sleep in now while I suffered in a twin bed. Next to the crib was my tiny little cradle for my dolls. Inside was a beautiful baby doll. I looked up at my expectant grandmother’s face and both my parents now standing behind her and they all nodded eagerly and I reached for the doll but when I looked up, something was wrong. Grandma’s face looked pained. Dad looked panicked while mom quickly knelt down and lifted the quilt that had wrapped the doll. “This is yours too, not just the doll, Mema MADE this for you. She started when you were born and it was just finished this week.” I realized with horror that I’d grabbed the doll that was meant to be window dressing for this beautiful quilt, not the other way around and I dropped that doll like she was made of hot coals and grabbed the quilt hugging it to my toddler chest and looking up at Mema with pleading eyes of, “Don’t be upset Mema, I didn’t realize, I love the blanket, I love it, I will spend every day for the rest of my LIFE showing you how I love this blanket!!!” I eventually forgave the doll for tricking me and named her Mary-Lou but my mother told me that for weeks I’d just hide the doll under beds and couches before they could all convince me it was okay to like the doll too. The fact that I vividly remember the look on my Mema’s face that day…in fact it is my earliest memory…tells me how much I adored my Mema even at that young age. And I did spend the rest of her years LOVING THAT BLANKET SO HARD. There are maybe 3 photos of me as a kid without that blanket clutched to my chest or my head or wrapped around my feet as I lay passed out and drooling. And one of the last days I spent at Mema’s house before she passed, I woke up at 4:30 am and I couldn’t sleep. So, I took my blanket and padded bare-footed down to Mema’s room and stood in the door listening for her shallow even breathing coming from the hospital bed. My mom was asleep in the recliner next to the bed and as Mema lifted her hand to show me she was awake, my mom sputtered to alertness sensing the movement. I shuffled my mom out of the room to go sleep upstairs and I kissed my Mema and turned on the TV for her and curled myself into the recliner where I could hold her hand. I pulled my blanket up to my face where I’ve always held it for comfort and she whispered, “I can’t believe you still sleep with that thing.” And I said, “After your gone, it’ll be the only way I have of getting a hug from you every day. So, I’m never going to apologize for not giving up my blankey as I grew up.” She smiled. She pretended horror that I never gave it up. But I could see the joy behind her eyes that she had made the thing that became my MOST prized possession. And now, as a 35 year old woman, I still curl into my bed at night, slip it out from under my pillow and hold it to me and imagine Mema giving me a hug.

It’s okay to love things when they hold meaning. It’s okay.
April recently posted..Getting to Scotland

Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm

That was beautiful. Thank you.

Sarah October 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Holy balls I miss my grandmother now…
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Noa October 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Ditto, yo.

Dana the Biped October 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I have a necklace–some cheap tourist thing. My grandpa bought it for my grandma when he was stationed in Japan just after the bombing. It’s probably not even worth twenty dollars, but it’s the single most important thing I own.
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Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Funny how little things become so big in your life.

Kate October 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I moved recently, and the rental truck company forgot to include the furniture pads I’d ordered. I told the movers, “I don’t care if the tables/dresser/whatever get a little beat up. That’s life. But this linen chest is what my great-grandfather made for my great-grandmother for their wedding. It means a lot to me.” We covered it in almost every blanket I own, and it made the trip unscathed. There’s something to be said for having a tangible piece of your history.

Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I do the same thing when we move! “I don’t give a fuck about literally any of my furniture but so help me God, if you fuck up my desk I will kill you.”

Jeri October 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I’ll need a new car within the next 1-2 years and I have a hard time even thinking about getting rid of my Mustang, because every time I hear that low rumble, I think of my father and our shared joy of all things muscle car. So yeah, it’s OK to hold on to things.

Noa October 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm

On one hand, I am touched by this story. And on the other I see your icon and want to shout about the fact that A&M got fucked over.

Janene October 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

Oh wow, yeah, car memories… you touched on so many points from my childhood. My parents spent my childhood travelling by car around Ontario, little backwood places that are the “blink and miss”. My favourite things are the stories from those escapades, like the time my Dad pointed out to the real estate agent that the “wonderfully growing plant” in the hobby-farm greenhouse was, in fact, marijuana… or when Dad macgyvered the boat trailer using a bungee cord and left-by-the-side-of-the-road wood to get us the last 100 or so kilometres home, or the apple-picking at the old farmer’s home in Collingwood.

Things come and go, but the stories are priceless. And sometimes you need the car that helped make the stories, too.

Noa October 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I love those little side-stops. Adrian helped me appreciate those on vacations. I’m an itinerary girl, but ever since he took over vacation planning, we’ve gotten all the good stuff. All those side roads that are so much more beautiful, all those little hidden restaurants.

Misty October 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I have the same thing as you, Noa, with the fire and the loss of diploma and yearbooks and pictures and . . . pretty much all of my childhood possessions and thus memories. It’s still hard to think about those items casually strewn about my bedroom floor, left there by a young girl who had no idea of the consequences as she left for her Senior Week. Only to have to parse through the black ashy objects filling that room after the fire. It was so overwhelming, I pretty much just walked away in sorrow and disgust, leaving the one thing I wish I had salvaged . . . a stuffed donkey I had since I was a baby that had been loved to mangey shreds and reattached multiple times upon tail and ear seperation. It had fallen behind my bed, as an 18 year old girl doesn’t snuggle with such things, but it still meant everything to me. I know it seems silly, but I will always regret not thinking about it and salvaging it in some way, as black and ashy and smoke damaged as it most probably was.

So, I get it. If you can hold onto something that means that much, do it. You can’t go back.
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Noa October 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm

I have one pom pom from the housefire that made it, impressively enough since it’s made of plastic. I keep it in a box. Sometimes when you lose those things, you’ll hold on to anything to remind you of everything.

Sarah October 15, 2013 at 6:57 pm

No pictures of the car??

My dad still has his first car in his garage. A ’69 LaSalle, I believe. He’s going to fix it up when he retires. Except he retired in 2009, lol! He also has another car of the same make/model for parts.
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Noa October 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm

My grandad took 20 years to restore his 1928 Model A! Takes more time than you realize, but oh so worth it.

Abby October 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

Never let that car go. My husband and I restored the only car my parents ever bought new (instead of re-doing the kitchen with the yellow and white swirl counter) only to have a kid high on god-knows-what rear-end us (me and the car)–we were going 60, he was going approx 110 in a full size van. I am alive because of that little german steel framed bad-ass car. If I had been driving my asian plastic car I would have been killed.
We fixed it.
My Dad picked that car because it would be fun to drive and protect his family… done and done Dad.

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