I thought it would be fun to write down my memories of the different cars my family had while I was growing up. I’m not sure where the idea came from but I have had more than one laugh recalling the memories associated with each of them. I’ll be posting the story in short chapters over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy them.
The car played a vital role in our family. It served as both a transport bus carting me and my four siblings to and from our various social and recreational activities while also serving as an occasional means of escape for either of my two parents when the multi-generational ecosystem they created became just a little too much to handle. Thankfully, a quick rip around the winding, rural roads that surrounded our home was usually enough to clear their heads and see them return shortly with a clean slate of patients and a renewed sense of parental responsibility.
These precious windows of sanity were often masked behind the phrase, “I’m heading up to the store. Back in a few minutes.” It wasn’t until later in life that I came to realise why certain trips to the store took longer than others. I mean, sure there were times when we really needed a block of butter or a litre of milk but on occasion these quick trips sometimes took 15 or 20 minutes to complete – a journey that I can clearly execute in under ten minutes. Upon returning, my Mom would usually greet Dad with the phrase “Where’d you go, Timbuktu?” While Dad would routinely inform Mom that while she was out, her tea went cold. Mom the cynic and Dad the realist.
I’ve created a set of timeless images in my mind that will forever accompany the thoughts of my parents stepping out to run a quick errand. I imagine my father gripping the wheel tightly and pushing one of the many Carter Chariots to speeds exceeding five kilometres over the posted limit while chain-smoking his way through a package of Matinee Extra Milds. I doubt that he yelled and screamed like they do in the movies since he usually came back just as tightly wound as when he left. I don’t mean to imply that Dad could never blow off steam but let’s just say the man needed a cigarette once in a while. He earned it.
Mom on the other hand, I imagine her taking a very different approach to these glimpses of freedom that again, I’m only speculating happened. In my mind, I picture her driving her usual five kilometres under the posted limit humming a tune by Abba or Elton John until she finds a quiet place to pull over and write a few lines of poetry in her journal. That’s my Mom and Dad. Oppositely driven yet unusually well matched. I think most kids see their parents that way after years of silence observation.
The first family car in my memory was a VW Bug. Remember now, I was born in ’73 and my first memories probably didn’t start taking shape until 1975 at best. I think that’s important to mention so you don’t paint the wrong picture in your mind. Our Bug was one of those classic originals with the big push-button handle that opened the front hood, an AM-only radio, and a severe distaste for cold Canadian winters. Since I was only two or three years old at the time, my memories of this inaugural mode of transportation are indeed limited.
There was a distinct smell to our VW. That much I remember. It somehow seemed to retain its new car smell throughout the entire course of its life. I have no idea how, or even if that could have been possible. I think my memories of this not-so-trustworthy automobile are a bit slanted towards the elementary tactile skills of a three year old for obvious reasons. Eventually, we pushed the car to the end of the driveway and sold it to a pair of hunters looking to turn it into some sort of armoured, animal assault vehicle.