Friday, July 30, 2010

To all the cars we've loved before



The old engine roared to life as I turned the key. Then it died and needed to be restarted. And thus we began our last journey together, the old ‘89 Oldsmobile and I.

The computer had flashed me a cheerful “Good Morning.” I thought how ironic it was that on this last day, this last trip, it would be off schedule. It was 12:15 and afternoon. But that brought another wave of sadness over this parting. Perhaps it was wishing it was morning again, maybe morning in terms of being a younger and more reliable vehicle so that this trip wouldn’t be necessary.

I had already started getting nostalgic as I cleaned it out. I was remembering how it got its reputation for being a drifter. Bobby Snow didn’t believe that it would drift all the way from the end of his road to his house, but he was proven wrong.

Cameron had hit a deer not too long after he had started driving, so there were major repairs required. The grill was from another model car, and the major front pieces never again fit quite as well as they had before.

The hood ornament kept falling off, so Johnie bolted on a rather plain metal drawer pull. The harness on the left turn signal had been broken, so you had to remember to push it up after every left turn (a subject of some frustration when wives tried to remind husbands so that fellow travelers on the road wouldn’t become confused).

The front passenger side window didn’t lower or raise anymore. I guess a more accurate description would be that if you made the mistake of lowering it (which it might accomplish), the raising would either not happen or would be completed only with the utmost outside assistance.

There were miscellaneous wires in the trunk and under the dash from the sound system and other electronics that Cameron had installed in his late teenage years. (Am I remembering blue undercarriage lights at one time???) Sadly, there must have been some bumping of the radio in the process because it never sounded very good in its latter days.

I cleaned out the candy wrappers, one of Johnie’s time cards (since he had been the primary driver recently), shells of sunflower seeds which had probably been consumed by one of the ballplayers in the family (Paul was a likely candidate), and just enough coins to make the clean-out additionally rewarding.

I recalled that during Randi’s tenure, the car had received its name (Gary) and had safely transported her to and from school for a goodly number of her high school days. Although I had forgotten until today, the girls' naming of cars was but a revival of the tradition their mother had started (see below). Kaylyn’s Corolla was Zingy. Randi’s 4-Runner is Moby (I’ll give you three guesses as to the color and the first two don’t count!). The 1995 Oldsmobile was Jerry.

So across town we went to the vehicle retirement and recycling center (I don't like the word "junk") where our ailing 1993 Buick had also ended its existence a couple of years ago. But Gary was behaving so beautifully. His engine was smooth and responsive. He didn’t even cut off on me once as we traveled (he had twice for Johnie yesterday). This did nothing to counteract my suspicions that maybe I was Gary's favorite.

The odometer stood tantalizingly at over 294,000 miles. How I had wanted to see that 299,999 become 300,000. I remember that our red Astro van had turned 100,000 the day Bill Clinton was first elected. (What a sad thing to remember him by...the car, not Clinton!) I remember driving that van around offering prayers of thanksgiving that we had enough room so that our five children could spread out over the three rows of seats. Plus, I was into classical music at the time and loved listening in my own private concert hall.

As much as my heart tried to find a way to justify refurbishing Gary, rationality insisted that it was time to cut him loose. Just as I had rationally realized about three years after we got married and started having our children that I couldn’t hold on to Alice anymore. Alice was a “Mountain Laurel” pink-and-white 1957 Cadillac which my parents had bequeathed to me before my 1975 trip across the country. Her back seat and trunk were packed solid with all my belongings. The front seat was empty. And on one particular occasion, when there were no available motels in rural Iowa, I pulled into a wide space in the road beside a cornfield, locked all the doors, and spread out as well as I could across that front seat. As large as it was, that was not
a comfortable sleep—aggravated, of course, by the huge steering wheel.
Not Alice, but like her

But about eight years later Alice was sitting in the driveway of our under-construction home. Johnie kept reasoning with me that we just couldn’t afford to keep her running. Not only did the water pump need to be replaced, but the flashy and plentiful chrome was beginning to suffer from Virginia’s humidity. Plus, we were clay poor (we don’t have dirt per se in Albemarle County) and we had someone interested in buying her. It took me a while to reassure myself that my social standing didn’t really depend on my reputation as the owner of the pink-and-white Cadillac after all. (For better or worse, that has now been replaced by the title of genealogy freak, but that’s another story.)

A thousand dollars later, Alice was towed out of our lives forever. I had wanted to use the money to buy something specific that we could remember her by. But I’m pretty sure we couldn’t afford that sentimental luxury right then. I still think of her every time I see a restored ‘57 Caddy and wonder if that might be her. Plus, she’ll always be a good historical marker since I’ll never forget that the gas in her tank (probably filled sometime in 1978) had cost 55 cents per gallon.

So farewell, Gary. You served us well, and we are appreciative. More appreciative than our abandonment might indicate. Perhaps the tears I shed as I waited for my visiting teacher to pick me up and take me home will attest to that. I’m getting a little weepy again thinking that the computer had probably figured out the timing error when the new owner started him up after I left.

But you will live on in our hearts. We’ll think of you every time we see one of your siblings. And maybe this time we will be able to use the money we got for you in a memorable way.

Rest well, faithful servant.

P.S. For his part, Johnie denies any shred of sentimentality in this matter. Oh well, one of us has to have a heart!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Luck’s not a lady...but it is a temptress!

The grocery store clerk handed me the three cards at the end of our transaction. There was a promotion of some kind. Nine shielded circles, three of which could be scratched off. And only three. If you got three matching, you won a prize.

Hm-m-m, interesting the memories that aroused. One of an Avon meeting where one of the door prizes was a raffle ticket. Being quite unacquainted with the process, I asked my friend next to me to do whatever was supposed to be done. There is no memory of having won anything, though.

So there I sat, late at night---me with my three cards. I had thought I would have Johnie do one or two, that perhaps his luck would be better than mine. Then I figured he had enough to do trying to salvage his aching back, so I scratched off the first three on the first card. No match. Then two on each of the other two cards. After all, if those didn’t match, what use to do the third? (And yes, I did go back later and scratch them all off just to prove to myself that there actually were matches there.)

Three matches out of nine. I’m not sure statistically what the chances are. But when I hear on the radio of one in three hundred plus thousand or even a million something, I’m pretty sure mine were better with those cards. Not quite so good, the possibilities of winning a community raffle. Amazing that even of a relatively limited number of entries rolling around in the bin, the host never selected mine. One early morning, he did call the name of a friend. So I called her to let her know, and she won!

But the other more poignant memory is of the time when the children were young and our finances so strained that they were causing sleeplessness. Grandma and Grandpa had gifted us with a subscription to The Reader’s Digest. Still on our bookshelves are several volumes purchased in a vain effort to qualify more fully for the grand prize. Vain, vain, but oh what a treasured prospect—--something, anything that could suddenly change our straitened circumstances into at least solvency...never mind the mind-boggling riches!

And when no one appeared on our doorstep with an over-sized check or slipped us a quiet fortune in an anonymous envelope, we got up the next morning and continued our daily labors. Up hill and down. Richer and poorer, relatively speaking. But somehow we always made it, though not without help from both the seen and the Unseen.

How grateful I am to look back now on those years and be able to be thankful for the journey. Not that we’ve reached our destination, but at least we have courage for the voyage. As Mother entitled her personal history, it takes “Lots of Work and Luck.” I’d add blessings to the equation, but would never deny the necessity of the hard work.

Besides, as my dad used to say, “The lottery can’t possibly be good for you. After all, look at what it does to your heart when you simply imagine winning!”

Work to make your dreams come true, and then look for the miracles along the way. But don’t put too much stock in Lady Luck.

P.S. The fellow bagging my groceries that day said that he had won half a million dollars once, in Florida. He apparently did a lot of good things with the money, including putting his daughter through school. But, ironically, there he was, bagging groceries!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To dizzidaisy23 . . . a new(?) friend

I was startled to see you as a follower, but very grateful as well. Not just for me, but for poor Anna who has been my sole follower on this site since the beginning. I'm sure she'll be delighted to have a companion!

Anyway, I just wanted to welcome you and hope that your having added this site to your list will be a happy thing for you...despite the fact that several of my recent posts seem not to have been of the cheerful variety.

If I know you (but not your screen name), would love to have you contact me. If I don't know you, would love to add you to my list of friends as well as followers!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The warning

He should have known it was coming, that spider in the corner. After all, he had to have heard the deafening whine of the vacuum cleaner as it got closer and closer. But still he sat, unheeding.

So he got sucked up. Destroyed. Buried in the collected dust and grime of past cleanings.

However, he was warned, was he not? He should have run. He should have taken shelter in a crevice somewhere. I might not have pursued him too far, being in a hurry to finish my appointed tasks.

And as I see the results of the noisy machine that is currently steamrolling through our liberties, I think to myself, “Well, we were warned, were we not?” And with the same nonchalance with which I destroyed the spider, our country’s leaders are destroying over 200 years of constitutional government.

No, they’re not the first to infringe on those hard-won freedoms. But the speed with which they are wiping out the rest truly frightens me.

I think it’s time to find that crevice. Maybe even prepare to run!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Announcing

I shall be brief (those of you who know me may be navigating their tongues slowly over to their cheeks at that comment). But I needed to document the most recent event in our family.

Paul Samuel Quillon and Elizabeth Rebecca Stone were married in the Washington DC Temple at about 1:00 on the afternoon of July 9. Liz’s company included her parents Kent and Martha, a brother John, her sister Emily, and a cousin Meredith. A very special friend, a former Young Women's leader, was also able to come. All of Paul’s siblings were also present, including his Meador brother-in-law Derek and nieces Corin and Kendall.

We had a lovely reception on Saturday night. Liz and her mother had worked very hard on the preparations, which was remarkable given the long-distance requirement.

Some observations: It will be a while before red velvet cake is terribly appealing, especially to Kaylyn who successfully managed nine complete layers of it. It will also be a little while, at least, before Randi will feel like taking another plane trip (having driven halfway across the country with Liz as she relocated as well as making double trips to help the Meadors fly from Arizona to Virginia and then back again.)

We are grateful to have gotten to know Liz’s parents and brother and cousin and are happy to add them to our extended family. We are especially thankful that Paul found someone who makes him smile.