Mommy Musings: Time Capsules on Tires
The first car I owned was a beauty, a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 with toothpicks wedged between the driver’s door molding and the upholstered ceiling to silence a rattle.
She wasn’t much to look at outside either by the time I took the keys in 1988 as a junior at Bethel University in St. Paul.
A second paint job looked more like primer — gave her a dull, lima bean green appearance that inspired my friends and me to nickname her “Booger.”
But her V8 engine could power up in seconds to pass other cars chugging uphill.
And every time I lifted that hood that seemed big as a garage door there it sat like a gemstone on velvet. Grime covered it, but I could make out the stylish V8 script printed on a red background over this gutsy engine. And my right foot still remembers how it responded, how this tank of car gobbled highway with a ride that felt like floating in a lava lamp.
She was my muscle car in disguise — only to be replaced ever since with a string of four-cylinder engine compact cars with no get up and go.
Such a pity!
But the best part of the Delta 88 is the best part of any car, I reckon — everything not factory-issued.
This explains my attachment to used cars that never turn heads.
From the Oldsmobile Delta 88 to the 1999 Mercury Mystique we just sold on Wednesday to my nephew for a dollar, I value these vehicles as time capsules on tires.
As long as we can keep them running, we keep them. So, they become a certain Velcro for our moments together out and about in town and on road trips.
The Mystique came into our picture on Oct. 15, 2009, after we bought her from a CU graduate student in Boulder. That fella bought it from a rental car fleet in College Station, Texas.
Before handing the student a cashier’s check, my husband transferred three car seats into the backseat to confirm that the width would be ample for the “precious cargo” as my mother-in-law likes to say.
Since then, we have put on more than 200,000 miles bundled together by our seats and seatbelts journeying at the same rate through time and space in this car.
So, as my nephew and I wiped the vinyl and plastic parts of the interior with Armor All the day before he took off, I recalled the time we rescued a stray cat at my parents’ farm in Illinois after the holidays six or seven years ago.
We had no sooner crossed the Mississippi when the cat the boys named “Timber” went coo-coo and raced around the moving car as if at the Indy 500.
Then, it hunkered down in the back window and went comatose — refused to move for food, water or the litter box for the duration of this one-day, 15-hour trek back to Erie.
Another time I reached over to the glove box to get a tissue and nearly went off the road when I noticed it turned to Swiss cheese by a mouse come to Valhalla — our car littered with petrified french fries, grape stems and leftover Halloween candy.
The mouse was long gone, I hoped. But just the thought of its beady little eyes, pointy nose and whiptail crawling around the car freaked me out.
In this car, I took our son, Ray, home from Longmont United Hospital — a newborn on oxygen diagnosed with Down syndrome and a form of leukemia.
We couldn’t take him out in public for about four months. So, whenever I got cabin fever, Ray and I went for Sunday drives.
The car was our bubble, the barrier to keep the H1N1 “Swine” flu that season away from a then medically fragile little boy.
In my mind’s eye, I can still see all three of my backseat boys holding sippy cups and blankies through hail, blizzards and the muggiest heat imaginable in Nebraska where the air conditioner squeezed water onto the pavement in a steady drip when we parked at a rest stop there one July.
Now, though, Mitzy the Mercury Mystique is on the road with one person — an adventurous teenager.
And miles away from our old car I will pray the same prayer for him we said many times in the driveway for ourselves before road trips — that angels would go before and behind, above and below, and beside Mitzy to guard all within and without.
“Drive like a grandma!” I added, my last Mitzy-related moment after a good long run.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at email@example.com or at 303-746-0942. For more photos and columns, visit Mommy Musings online at mellskog.pmpblogs.com/ .