I was gifted a 1976 banana yellow Buick Skylark back before I learned how to say no. My grandmother’s house needed to be sold. My father wanted the car to stay in the family, and I was in college without a car. We argued about it. I said it was too much. He disagreed.
Before making its way to me in the mountains of Appalachia, the car sat idle for decades in my grandparent’s garage. A large white steering, an old push button radio and two long white leather bench seats made up the interior. My parents hung a tropical air freshener from the rear view mirror to mask its musty, sat too long smell. They told me not to worry about the rusty trunk, but the mechanic who fixed the car for the second or third time in the couple months I owned it, told me whatever I put in the there would find its way onto the highway sooner than later.
I did love this car once, back when it lived in the Gleason’s garage on Jensen Street. Those days meant Grammie was squeezing us, frying hot dogs in butter, and there was plenty of Tropicana OJ, something Mom didn’t buy.
Twice a year we headed from Virginia to my grandparent’s house in West Hartford, Connecticut. My grandfather, paralyzed and no longer able to drive, sat in his brown recliner, while my grandmother, who was rarely able to leave the house, cared for him. Once in a while, my father took the Buick out for a drive, but mostly it lived in the stories he told. We’d laugh no matter how many times he said the car, once sky blue, was painted yellow when my grandmother forgot where she parked one too many times.
While my parents helped my grandparents and visited, my sister and I played in the deep New England snow, and in the summer walked to my father’s old elementary school hoping there were kids to play with on the playground. We watched hours of Madonna and Cindy Lauper on MTV, made up dances to Like a Virgin and Girls Just Wanta Have Fun way before we knew what the songs were about, and ate all our meals on TV trays. Sometimes I’d listen while my grandmother searched through the boxes she kept all the cards and letters she’d ever received. Too young to remember them, I loved the same stories, over and over again.
My love of my grandparents and her stories didn’t transfer to their actual car. Too big for my college’s tiny mountain streets and the fact I’d only had my license a year, I was as terrified to drive as I knew I’d be, sure it was a matter of time before I mowed someone down. Issue after issue, the yellow Buick and I spent a lot of time getting to know the town’s mechanics. Finally, after a couple of months mostly parked, I called my mother sobbing. Please just take this thing.
On the drive back to my parent’s home, the car’s brakes failed, relinquishing me of my guilt for not wanting the car. It was too much car for me and, truth be told, not something my father wanted sitting in his garage.
Dad sold it for a cent on eBay, back when eBay was new and allowed a person to undo that sort of thing. The man who eventually bought it wrote to say how much he enjoyed how well it drove. It was well cared for, he said.
We tried to keep it, take good care, but the truth is it wasn’t the car we ever wanted, not unless it was back, parked in the garage on Jensen Street.