December 13, 2010
Metal, tinted windows, gallons of gas and an engine propel me forward. They make up this machine I am in, but they are not what created it. Fast racecars and teenage boys’ trucks do not have the same feel. It is different somehow. I can tell just by looking, though it is not in the appearance. It is the memories; the possibility of the memories that will be made in the future and the comfort of the memories that have already sunk deep into the leather seats are what truly create a car. And that promise of new memories is what galvanizes our family of four to squeeze our baggage and ourselves into the Lexus for a nine-hour ride to rural Mississippi singing loud Jimmy Buffet songs every June and December.

It is also that smell, the same one that surrounds me now. One that is mixed with too many odors to name, from fast food eaten after a soccer tournament to chlorine filled swimsuits left under the seat for weeks before someone noticed.

The sound of a train jolts me out of my thoughts. I ask my father to turn up the volume for “Everybody’s Got a Cousin in Miami” and open the sunroof for the last time. Air rushes in. I lay back into the leather, trying to relax and listen.

“Psst. Psst, psst! Hey, Jimmy, do you know anyone that can get me a passport real quick?”

I glance up at my sister. She had called shotgun, but I would have let her sit in the passenger seat anyways; I am tired of the air conditioner sporadically letting loose cold droplets on my feet or anything I place down on the floor. Dad defends her, the Lexus that is, saying it is not her fault, but that does not stop me from blaming the car. Thankfully that is my only complaint against her. All of her other lovely faults, we have given her.

“In a third world jungle lives a natural drummer with a dream to play.”

Dad jerks the car to a stop at a stop sign and I realize my seatbelt is not on. As I clip it into place, I am careful to avoid the dirt that has gathered in the seat over the years of soccer bags, softball bags and school bags being thrown onto the seat. I squirm, thinking of this. When I have to sit in the back, I try not to think about all that has gone on here.

“He’s the brother of the lizard and the flying fish, but he’s enchanted by the pictures from the satellite dish.”

Dad has been stalling, hoping this day would never come, but after 300,000 miles, it is time. He reaches into the driver’s side compartment, the one I often snuck to without anyone noticing to throw away his stash of tobacco, and settles the contract to buy the new Lexus GX 460 beside him for easy access.

“So his mama packs his bag, knots his red neck tie, sends him North to his relations with a kiss goodbye.”

All three of us are singing along by now.

“Everybody’s got a cousin in Miami. Everybody’s got a cousin in Miami. Everybody is an aborigine. Dancing to the heat turns your clothing clammy. Everybody needs to have a dream come true.”

Absentmindedly I reach over and stroke the door handle. Over the past eleven years it has degenerated: It has chipped from silver to its underlying tan. Dad tried to fix the driver’s door handle once with duct tape. Now it will not cut the driver, but is not terribly attractive. The doors are actually the only part of the car that have not been replaced by the dealership or thoroughly scrubbed down by “Bubbles” over the years. That is fine by me; it just means it is the only part of car that has stayed with us all this time and has kept all its memories.

“And they wanted him to sing on the islands near and far/ He always found his way by Orion the lucky star.”

I glance out the window, see we are no longer on I-10 and once again ask my father to turn up the volume for “Jolly Mon Sing”. But, there is no time left. We are pulling into the Lexus dealership. Still holding onto the handle, I look up and catch my father’s eyes in the mirror. There is a tear in his eye.

“He’d tell them of their joys, he’d tell them of their woes/ They’d love to see him come and hate to see him go.”

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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

Andy Melder said...
Jan. 19, 2011 at 3:56 am
Emma, this is your mom's friend from high school!  A great article - you have a real knack of capturing the emotions of a memory that every child (and adult) has when it comes to the "memories" that a car evokes.  I remember my dad's first car when I came from Germany.  It will always be part of the fabric of my childhood.  Keep on writing - you are gifted!
Nancy said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 11:15 am
Emma, what a nice essay!  I like how you have interwoven the lyrics with your text.  I think many people can relate to giving up a car with history.  I hope you keep writing!
StellaRay said...
Dec. 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm
How thoughtful!  Reading this well written essay reminds me of how I was once young and had some to b sentimental about things I cared.  We get old and too busy to realize the importance of such sentiment!  Thanks for bringing that back for me!!
pcpe said...
Dec. 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm
Awesome little budding author it looks like!  From one writer to another, keep "inking"!
Lili said...
Dec. 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm
Wonderful!! I am SO proud of you!
Leona said...
Dec. 16, 2010 at 4:25 pm
I love how you blended the music you would hear in the car with the memories of the car.  Very clever
Bebe said...
Dec. 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm
This is incredible!  Great job!
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