Saturday, December 19, 2009

Special Edition #6: Cars

I was never a big car person. Sure, I liked cars, fantasized about owning certain vehicles, desired different fast or big or silly or exotic cars over my many years, but I also was practical about them: cars required money and maintenance. I've had enough trouble with vehicles to enjoy not having them as much as having them--which is a bit odd, since I always loved to drive long distances, loved the road and that form of travel.
My first car was an old car. It was a 1966 Ford Falcon wagon. Dark metallic green, so dark people mistook it for black. It had been our family car--bought new in 1966 by my father in Vancouver, Washington and I still recall the day he drove it home, all of us kids and my mother standing out in the street to see the new car--and the Falcon had been used and used for many years. It was in the Falcon that we went all over the west on camping trips and to visit relatives back in the midwest, it was the main car--our only car--while in Tennessee. It was our car when it was common to only have a single car per family. And it was the family car when we moved to Des Moines, Iowa. It was the car I learned to drive, pretty much--though now that I think of it, I learned to drive in that '72 Chevy Impala, a big blue-gray beast. But the Falcon, over the years, became my car. I didn't buy it outright from my parents, but they gave it to me right after high school and I used it to tool around Urbandale and Des Moines, to go to work at Younkers, etc. I took it to Lake Okoboji (in NW IA) with Bobby--where his parents had a trailer--and on the way back the brakes went out and I had to coast downhill through a busy intersection, then backwards a bit before I figured to use the handbrake. But it was a cool car, it became old enough and was still in good enough shape to be different, almost classic. Of course, it eventually got too old. It still ran, but in the late seventies or early eighties, Father got rid of it, he actually drove it to the junk yard where the guy told him most cars there can't be driven anymore. My father did this by himself and I think it was an emotional moment for him--it had been his brand new car, THE family car, and life and time had moved on beyond all of those days. (Ah, I remember now: he drove it to the junk yard, with my mom following in the Impala, then my father had to go back to look at it again because, "I think I left the lights on.")
My next car was a van. It was a Ford Econoline with fuzzy carpeting, a cooler and other strange stuff. I'd bought it from a friend of my brother's who lived up in Nevada, Iowa (a small town) and I paid too much for it and it was a crazy vehicle. It was a 1960's/70's van, not quite a hippy VW Bus van, but close. It was when I had this idea that I'd live in my van and drive around the country with a dog at my side. So, I did get the van, I did get the dog--then I gave up the dog (too much work) and went to college at the U. of Iowa (no traveling and living in the van) and that vehicle sat at my parents' house, an eyesore more or less, until a neighbor finally found someone who would buy it. Good bye. I was glad to be rid of it.
I didn't own a car for quite a while after that, though I traveled to Alaska and New Mexico and L.A. and north FL and on and on. But then I bought the old powder blue Ford Maverick from my parents after grad school at the Iowa Writers Workshop fell apart. I needed a car and it was a cheap choice. But a strange choice, because I hated that car more than any vehicle I'd known. Yet, the Maverick became a reliable beast. It served me well. It took me back down to Walton County and a beach life in Florida, then across country to L.A. and then up to Seattle. It took me up to Bellingham and out to the Olympic coast, it took me back to Des Moines and back down to Florida's panhandle once again and it took me to Illinois twice and stayed in Champaign, IL with me. That old stupid car got around some. And I eventually traded it in for a friend's--Kurt!--red pickup when I (we, Fru and I) moved out to Montana.
And so in Montana I had a red Chevy Custom Deluxe full-sized pickup. I liked that truck. It had been Kurt's work truck--concrete construction--so it was a little beat up, but I liked that. It fit in well with Missoula. And it was a good truck, didn't give me much trouble. Fru had a little brown Honda Civic, which we used for long trips and to buzz around town, but I used my truck quite a bit. And when we left Missoula, I hauled it behind the U-Haul when we moved back to Champaign. I kept it in Champaign for a couple of years, then sold it. We got by with one car for a while.
By the early 90's it wasn't me anymore, it was Fru and I and then Fru and I and our first baby. That's when the truck went goodbye, that's when we traded in the Honda for a little Suburu (a nice car but it didn't last long), then, before we moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Fru's grandmother--Mormor!--gave us some money and we bought a brand new Volvo 850 wagon. Nice. That's what we used to move down to Florida with. Then my parents gave me their old car, a Chevy Cavalier, as a second car.
We still have the Volvo. I sold the Cavalier to Bill (MA, MN, MT Bill) a long time ago and it caught on fire and burnt up--after good years of use by him. But the Volvo still runs, has its issues and we don't really need it (my girls refuse to drive it most of the time). We have a new Volvo XC 90 and a new little Nissan. We had a Saab (S-something) Turbo convertible for quite a few years: loved that car, fun to drive, top-down-in-Florida fun, but it had its problems and I was glad to sell it off. We had a Nissan Pathfinder as our primary family car for years, but got rid of it--Cash for Clunkers (though it wasn't quite a "clunker" yet)--and got the little Sentra for my daughter. But I've been thinking about getting a pickup truck once again.
Yet, what to do with the old bluegreen/tealish colored Volvo 850 wagon? No one seems to want it besides me (and now I want a truck). Kids don't drive old beaters like they used to--and be glad they had one--especially here in South Florida. So, do I sell it? Do I simply drive it to the junk yard and have the guy tell me most cars they get can't be driven? Will I feel sentimental about this and think of the family life that was lived through this car, this old Volvo? Will I go back for one last look because "I left the lights on"?
Of course I will.

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