Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Was Her Last Car

       She bought me and brought me home with great pleasure.
       She thought, If I can have a yellow door and a yellow dress, can I not have – as my last vessel of exploration, ship of independence, proud, moving glowing house – a yellow car?  And so in 1971 I arrived home with her.
      “This is my last car,” she always said, and she was happy about that.  I was swift and sleek and my doors opened wide so that an old man on a walker, and dogs with short legs, and the cleaning lady could all get in and ride my smooth ride.
      I hid things from her.  All the stirrings and whirling gears in the drive train were separated from her by impervious black upholstery and carpeted floors.  My spinning wheels whispered on highways and complained loudly on ice, but she was confident in me and my heavy weight and progress. She said I was as big and yellow and easy to open as a banana! 
      Is it always progress to go to the grocery store and back to the garage?  My odometer said so.  Is it always progress to go from 49,999 miles – clickclick click – to 50.000?  And then on to 100,000?  (And have her and her husband of 60 years pretend to pour champagne into the gas tank while her son watched?)
     Is it progress to be forced – with cruel and frightened wrenchings of my drained-dry steering to turn where Providence wouldn’t have chosen me to go?
     One last time, she drove my darkening, bug-smeared body to the grocery, and she couldn’t remember how to drive me home and we hit a tree and her daughter (who had filled the – my – garage, my room in the house, my manger in the stable with her junk), had to walk to us and drive me and my shaken lady home.  I probably didn’t want to turn in at that too-familiar long driveway, to wait all night for morning and another excursion.
     All night, leather-winged buzzards shat their limey excretions on me.  My cooling engine ticked.  My tires sagged with my weight.  The dog-torn carpet behind the passenger seat was hidden. I had been with her now for 28 years. Sometimes the daughter took us all over the mountain and back, to "blow out the pipes" said the mechanic. The daughter said driving me was like driving a Sherman Tank.
     After my lady died, the daughter gave up driving me and gave $25 to a man who had one like me and wanted some parts. He took me away for the operation;  surely better than to be dragged to stockyards full of the fallen, the crashed, the old, the worn out and the dead.

Sore Throat & Croup

    As a child, I (like my brother) had frequent ear aches and sore throats.  Mummy would unfold the bound-off blanket samples that her own Mamam had used on her, and take the beautiful cobalt glass jar of Vicks Vaporub from the medicine closet.  She would unscrew the metal lid (which I can still hear) and dip her fingers in the jar and then spread a layer of Vicks on my chest and neck.  It warmed my skin and the mentholatum made my breathing cool and easier. Then she would lay the small blanket sample across my chest, fasten my pajamas back across the blue and gray woolen stripes of the blanket, and pull the covers up.

    Vicks was a salve, a linament, something of a magic potion, something a witch doctor would have loved to have in his leather bag of cures. It dates to 1905, and was first called Vick's Magic Croup Salve, and when my mother was born in 1908 it was still Croup Salve, and then four years later they renamed it Vicks Vaporub.
    I can't imagine that it didn't work for any of us.  If I close my eyes, I can feel Mummy's cool fingers spreading the salve across my chest, rubbing it into the base of my throat, and I can feel the scratchy wool blanket.  Seventy years later I still do it, to myself.  All the things she did to make us well -- they work!