Cruising Memory Lane: It's tough to steer a straight path in letting car go

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We sold Mom's car today. It had to happen sooner or later. Nothing lasts forever.

I was raised in a very traditional family in the 1950s. Mom cooked, cleaned, shopped and took care of the kids. Dad went off to work, cut the lawn, painted the house and bought the cars.

A year before Dad passed away, he decided that when he was gone Mom should have a "good car," as he called it. He loved the big fancy cars that all men his age aspired to growing up, so he bought a brand new Mercury Grand Marquis. It was as big as a boat, smooth as silk and gray. He never really drove it much, but he was pleased that he would be providing Mom with that good car.

Dad died in May of 1990. Mom drove the Mercury for a year, but she often would comment about how she liked Mary's car, a Honda Accord. She talked about how it was easier to drive, didn't use as much gas and was just the right size for Mary, who was also a widow.

My wife Jan and I sensed that Mom secretly wanted a smaller car but felt that it would be disloyal to Dad to even discuss it.

Jan and I concluded that she should sell that Mercury and get a Honda. We went to Mom's house, told her to come with us, and took her directly to the local Honda dealership.

She was shocked and sad and excited. It was clear that she liked the idea of the smaller car, but also that she felt like she was betraying Dad. I felt like she wanted us to say it was OK to change cars.

When she was "given permission" by us, Mom eagerly sat in the Civics and Accords and decided that she wanted the red Accord. The secret was out. She had thought previously of having a red car, but Dad was the decision maker and red was not to be. It was like the Mercury was the China Dog and the Honda was the Velveteen Rabbit.

When Mom was no longer able to drive, she told me that she wanted one of my three girls to have the car. Mom died in May 1999. The car had been driven 18,000 miles.

The Honda rested in our garage for a few years, then was resurrected when our middle daughter Ellen went to college. Over the years the car bounced between her and her sister Andrea. Slowly it began to tire.

Its last resting place was with Ellen in Washington, D.C., parked on a city street. The red paint had faded to a muted maroon, the body showed the scars of too many college parking lots and city streets, rust was peeking through the fenders, and the transmission was very hard to get in gear.

The Velveteen Rabbit had been loved to shabbiness.

The last straw for this old Accord was the bad battery, the bald tires and then the A pipe -- whatever that is. The car was tired and getting too annoying to keep, and Ellen decided it needed to go. She was right.

It was hoisted on a trailer and slowly exited our collective family consciousness. It was sold to a magic fairy, perhaps to be resurrected in another life.

Others saw a tired old Honda Accord on that trailer. I saw my parents.

intelligencer

Greg Smith of Lawrenceville, a retired business owner, can be reached at gsplastic@gmail.com. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Cruising Memory Lane" submissions from readers about their favorite and least favorite cars, in addition to other reader essays. Send your writing to page2@post-gazette.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.


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