The Oxen Of Suburbia MAG

By Julie C., Weston, MA

   One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is the huge Chrysler station wagon my family owned. Our car was, as my father said, "the largest living station wagon." The upholstery was tan vinyl which had to be covered with towels in the summer so our legs would not get burned or stick to the hot vinyl. The seats were spacious and comfortable and there was ample space in both the front and back seats. However, the crowning glory of the car was the enormous "way-back" which comfortably fit six children. On each side of the way-back area, there were several compartments which held various pieces of cloth and other objects including, as we laughingly discovered one day, an old pair of my father's briefs.

It was the ultimate honor to sit in the way-back of the car. I remember being in the car when my mother drove my sister and a group of students to Hebrew School. At times, she allowed me to sit in the back with the older children, and, during those rides, I felt special and privileged. One night when I was being punished, I was required to sit in the front seat next to my mother. I felt very young, detached, and somewhat paranoid as I heard the screams of laughter from the back of the car and imagined that they all concerned me. The car was an integral part of our lives when I was young. Indeed, it seemed that all of my friends had family

station wagons. One friend with whom I carpooled for nursery school even had a station wagon with seats in the way-back, instead of empty space. The seats faced the back window and it was my greatest joy to ride there. Living in Wayland, and later in Weston, seemingly secluded from most things, station wagons seemed to me to be "the oxen of suburbia." With two young children and their friends who needed to be driven to such places as summer camp, Hebrew School, and art classes, I doubt that my mother would have been able to survive with a smaller car. Nothing disturbed the station wagon: dropped food, finger-paint and a wet dog seemed merely to strengthen its character.

Although large station wagons seemed to be everywhere when I was younger, they do not seem to be abundant now. The reason for this may simply be that my perceptions have changed: my mother is no longer responsible for most of my transportation. However, I think that the number of station wagons has actually diminished substantially. Now people seem to feel more socially conscious and they may realize that gas-guzzling station wagons are neither good for the environment nor economical. As more and more people go to work in carpools in order to save gas and money, it has become evident that a station wagon cannot double as a small bus. In searching for a suitable replacement to the trusty station wagon, people have discovered vans and Jeeps. In addition, the newer station wagons are smaller and more efficient.

Although our now-deceased station wagon was too large and probably destructive to the environment, I think that it was used at a critical time in my life. The car was large enough to fit a group of my friends, while leaving ample space in which to play. I do not think that our car trips would have been nearly as tranquil for both myself and my parents if the rides had occurred in the smaller sedans we now own. I do not miss the years when station wagons were "the oxen of suburbia," but I think that they were a necessary part of my life. n

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i love this !


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