Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nostalgia on Auto Pilot

Yesterday I passed my old car on the freeway. It wasn’t my EXACT old car. But it looked just like it -- same body style and color as well as make and model. And I felt this inexplicable fondness as I followed it up the highway. It even made me a little wistful, but not sad. It’s just that every time I see another bluish-greenish-grey Honda Pilot on the road, or even in a parking lot somewhere, I still see us. I see our family. Our life, changing lanes right there in front of me.

Taken on my birthday weekend, an impromptu trip to the Grand Canyon, circa 2005.

I see our trip to Newport for Thanksgiving, our trip to Los Angeles to see Earth, Wind and Fire at the Hollywood Bowl, a trip to Colorado to explore the Garden of the Gods, and a handful of trips to Sun Valley, Idaho for family reunions. I see us house-hunting and making a big, interstate move. But not just the big stuff. I also see a hundred trips to grandparents’ homes to rough-house with cousins. I see us piling all Josh’s belongings in--literally filling every inch of space from the floor to the roof--to move him home for the summer. I see the back crammed with art supplies, ready to take me off on a painting adventure...to Wyoming, California, Cayucos, Kayenta....wherever the muse awaits. I’m amazed that there can be so much nostalgia attached to one car.
But then I remember my very first car: a spanking-new Toyota Celica, gunmetal gray and shaped like a bullet. It symbolized freedom, independence, success. I bought it right after I got my first real job as a designer. Jeff and I did most of our dating in that car, and we drove it back and forth from Salt Lake to Los Angeles so many times we had every stretch of I-15 completely memorized. The Celica was also our honeymoon getaway car (after we washed off the shaving cream and streamers and oreos). 
And once, I spilled a quart of homemade ice cream in the trunk. I promptly cleaned it up, not realizing some had seeped under the mat and into the wheel well. In the full swelter of summer, it quickly created the foulest stench imaginable; like vomit on steroids. Yet I couldn’t find the source to save my life. Or my gag reflex. Once we discovered the epicenter of the stink and vacuumed it up, we tried to disguise the remaining odor with one of those cardboard tree-thingies from the car wash. The scent was called “Spring Magic,” which we quickly learned was a euphemism for “retch-triggering old-lady perfume gone viral”. It smelled even worse than the original odor it was supposed to mask. We still remember, because it made us so nauseated we finally had to pull off the freeway and throw it out. 
And then I remember how quickly the Celica disappeared. Early one morning we were on our way to choir practice. Francis Dauzat came out of nowhere, still on his pain medication from last week’s surgery, with a patch over one eye, and turned right in front of us, allowing no time to stop. There we were, a mass of mangled steel and broken glass, but no one was hurt -- not even the baby our friend Karen was carrying inside her. I remember calling the insurance company and the agent responding, “Frank again?” That’s not a good thing when you’re on a first-name basis with the folks who process insurance claims. And just like that I lost some of that freedom and independence, replacing it instead with a 4-door Mazda, and motherhood.
But I don’t miss that sporty little Celica quite as much as the white Subaru Wagon with the red and blue stripes on the sides. My heart still skips a beat if I see one of those babies on the road. Because that was the white stallion my prince rode in on when he came and swept me off my feet. That car meant, “Jeff is here.” That was the car I saw parked in front of our house when I was came home from a date with a different guy. (Total Ginger Grant/Eva Grubb moment.) As soon as my date dropped me off I ran searching for Jeff. And fortunately found him. That was also the car that met up with my Celica at the exact time at the exact same intersection. We both instinctively stopped right then and there and jumped out of our cars, and met in the middle of the intersection, falling into an embrace, followed by The Kiss That Could Stop Traffic. Little did I know, that same car, just seven months later, would be our wedding present from Jeff’s parents. Years later, long after we were married, my heart would still skip a beat whenever I saw the Subaru pull up, because it meant Daddy was home from work. It meant “Jeff is here.”
And now? I love our new car. Love it. (Except for the neck-contorting “head rest,” which is actually tricky sales copy for “torture device.”) I love the way it handles, and the clean interior, and the fancy backing-up camera. But I’m not nostalgic when I see it pull up. It’s a little too new for that. So far, I just love that the way we acquired it felt like a total miracle! And although that’s a terrific start, I know we haven’t made nearly enough memories in it yet. But we will. 

What memories are attached to your cars?

Linking up to Just Write with my friend Heather of the EO.


Grzesiek i Lisa Pawlik said...

Oh, I loved reading about your car friends. :) I get very attached to homes and cars and anything that becomes an important part of family memories. I wonder if we get them all back in the next life? They're sort of part of the family, after all.

And I'm glad you love your new car and are looking forward to the memories it will help you make. (also, what is WITH some of those headrests? There is no chance that anyone could ever rest when their head is at the angle they are forced into!)

LisAway said...

(Oops, that was me, of course. And I love your should out to Not My Type. :)

Barbaloot said...

Hmm---sounds like you and my dad had the same Honda Pilot. Wonder if you're getting nostalgic when you see our old one? :)

Good luck making great memories in the new car!

Kristina P. said...

No nostalgia about any of our old cars. I think my husband misses his, for some reason. It was dumb.

Kazzy said...

Cars are kind of like dining room tables on the go, as far as places to have good discussions and to talk through quiet issues. I get the nostalgia!

Love ya and miss ya tons. I thought of you this weekend. Hope you had a grand birthday.

DeNae said...

I missed this one somehow! Oh, the stories our cars could tell. Every now and then I see an old blue Dodge Caravan, and I have the same sense of nostalgia for a van that took us (metaphorically) from Seattle to San Juan, PR, and was a loyal and reliable companion through all of it. Off to read abou the kiss that stopped traffic. Sounds yummy!

Luisa Perkins said...

Wonderful memories! What a great post. You'll make many new memories with this new car, too--I have no doubt of that.