Friday, December 06, 2002

Snow Was Falling, Snow On Snow

I went out into the treacherous universe this afternoon to run errands alone; Darcie and Willow were going to come, but it seemed intuitive that in bad weather the baby should stay home. I feel so...expendable. But in a good way, if that makes any sense.

From the insurance agency to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to the supermarket and home again took three hours, but mostly because I have a tendency to get bedazzled in the supermarket. Getting my grandparent's car registered in my name didn't seem weird until much later this evening. What's it going to feel like driving Grandpa's car? It's a couch on wheels, a '96 Mercury Grand Marquis with only 37,000 miles on it, powder blue inside and out, and I know I'm gonna love driving it, because if there's one major material thing I really value, it's a comfortable, roomy car.

But the memories might be difficult at first. The first time I ever drove that car was for their final move North to be closer to the family. We flew down late at night, slept for a few hours, had lunch with all four of my grandparents, and helped my grandmother pack up her house and move on to her "third stage of life," as she called it. This mostly meant helping her to decide what to leave and what to bring to their new efficiency apartment in a senior facility, and keeping her from giving me all of her personal belongings; Grandma was always one to move forward, not look back. That evening we left in their car to drive it up north, making it from Delray Beach, FL to Greenfield, MA in seventy hours with stops in Savannah, Charleston, Boston.

They never drove the car again. For the last two years it's been in my parent's driveway while my Grandfather's Parkinson's robs him of his driving privileges. Maybe three or four times during those years, Darcie and I came down and picked them up in it to take them out for a deli brunch, but no one else ever drove it but me.

Martha never drove, really, not even when my mom was a little girl; they lived in the city, and in the city you hardly needed a car unless you were going out of the city, on vacation or to visit relatives. She kept saying she would learn to drive, but somehow it never hit the top of the list, so the car was always Grandpa's. I remember every car he had, and I loved them all. They were always grandparentmobiles, slightly boxy wide loads with squared-off bumpers, which got only slightly more curved in the later models of their later Floridian years. When I was very little and they still lived in Brooklyn their cars smelled like them, like aftershave and hair tonic and perfume from Macy's and pipe smoke and cigarettes, before she quit and he stopped being able to hold a pipe.

For my entire life, in every car there was a small plastic turtle on the dashboard, one of the ones with a molded body and a head on a spring that bobbles around when the car moves. It was always there. Its name was Myrtle. I thought of it as a toy, and never thought to ask its real significance -- good luck charm? Reminder of the ocean? Inside joke? -- and now, really, I don't know if he'd have the strength to answer such a detailed question. One day, after my grandmother's stroke but before she died, I think, I took the last much-mutilated Myrtle, a plastic turtle whose head-on-a-spring would bob as the car turned corners, from the dashboard out in the sun in my parent's driveway, and put it in a jewlery box with some cotton in the armrest storage compartment of the Camry we drive now. It's melted and brittle from the glass-focused Florida sun, but this weekend it will go back on the dashboard where it belongs, I think.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:08 AM |

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