Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dream Cars

There may be no better way to spend a lazy Texas-hot summer afternoon than going to see a movie in a frigidly air conditioned theater.
It’s even better when your 4-year-old grandson goes with you.
We saw Cars.
Curran loves all things with wheels these days, and I’ve loved cars all my life, so this was the perfect movie for the two of us. Once again, Pixar Studios works its magic. The story of the redemption of racecar Lighting McQueen is enchanting, funny, poignant, and just exactly silly enough. Anyone who has ever sworn her car has a personality will love this movie. Anyone who has ever sworn AT his car will love this movie.
I think a love of cars is in my genes.
My paternal grandfather loved cars. When he was flush he owned big expensive cars and bought them for his sons when they went to college.
My father loved exotic cars all his life. He raced sports cars in amateur road races put on by the Sports Car Club of America. At various times he owned Jaguars, an Aston Martin and that pinnacle of every car lover’s dream -- a Ferrari. It was red, of course.
He infected all four of his children with this love of cars. When we are all together, the talk inevitably turns to talk of cars. More exactly, we talk of driving cars.
There is something sleekly satisfying about driving a splendid machine that does what it was made to do very very well. I will never forget driving my dad’s Ferrari on a deserted stretch of a long straight West Texas highway that allowed me to reach a speed I will not divulge, but which caused the telephone poles outside to flash by so fast they disappeared. Inside the car, however, everything was smooth, calm and quiet. This car was simply doing what it was made to do.
My father taught us all the importance of driving well and driving safely. He also taught us to care for our cars, however mundane or exotic they might be. He was able to afford expensive cars, but he loved driving almost any car that ran well. It was the experience he loved, I think.
Since people in West Texas have to drive long distances to get just about everywhere, I guess it was a good thing he loved to drive. In the early days of his medical practice, he had to drive 60 miles one way to the nearest hospital. He and my mom thought nothing of driving more than 300 miles to El Paso for a party, only to come back the next day.
One of my nicest memories of childhood is of sitting in back seat while my parents drove for hours through the night, my little brother sleeping beside me. My parents’ voices drifted back to me as I gazed out the window at the dark landscape and the bright night sky.
The moon often was so brilliant that the mesquite trees threw gnarly moon shadows on the road. In that sparsely populated part of West Texas, the stars were so bright they could hold their own even against a full moon. I would gaze at them and make up stories until I got lost between waking dreams and sleeping dreams.
And always, there was this otherworldly sense of being safely contained in this car moving across a sleeping land, our small band of travelers heading somewhere in another time, another place, another life. Anything was possible.
And I think that’s why I love cars. They embody for me the possibility of adventure. Within them is contained the potential for heading out to somewhere new, somewhere wonderful.
All you have to do is get in, and drive.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Your memories touched deep wells of resonance with me.

Long before it was known to be a dangerous thing to do, I was the kid who loved to lie on the rear window "shelf" of my father's 1958 Studebaker.

I loved the long, slow drives home from the family ritual of Sunday visits with relatives.

I'd watch the stars and imagine shapes or word messages from God.

Thanks, Katie, for this lovely piece. Frome one grandmother to another, I think our grandbabies bring out the best in us.