Creamsicles and Boxes

20 Jul

I was probably 6 the first time I fell in love with a car.

My dad died & my mom & I were living with my grandmother. Her house was in a quiet, established neighborhood; an easy walk to downtown Salisbury, NC. But then the couple next door died within a year of each other & all that quiet was disturbed when their house was sold.

Not only was it sold…it was sold to the local Chevrolet dealership that decided to turn the property into an “OK Used Car Lot.” My grandmother was livid but the house was torn down anyway, the sod ripped away & what seemed like acres of concrete spread across the land (Concrete spreading out so far & wide … opps – just borrowing a little Green Acres theme music because it popped into my head). In the place the stately old house had stood, a very small (in comparison) office building was erected; an eyesore island in the middle of a sea of eyesore concrete; the place where car wheeling & dealing would take place, hopefully to the satisfaction of both dealer & wheeler (driver / car shopper.)

A chain fence was positioned between my grandmother’s home & the OK place. It wasn’t a chain link fence but iron posts placed at equal intervals with a heavy-linked chain threaded through holes at the top of each post. It was also an eyesore but certainly did fit in with the unexpected eyesore landscape of the car lot.

I used to like to swing on that chain & watch the cars coming & going on the lot. The dealer would wave to me & I’d wave back. It was boring & exciting at the same time simply because it was new & different & because my grandmother took to grumbling about the noise & just the plain eyesoredness of the place. Her reaction was similar to, but not nearly as violent as the one she’d had when a Pizza restaurant was built across the street from our church; the church that was founded by her father-in-law & of which she was, at the time, matriarch. THAT eyesore was the work & business of the devil & maybe a bit more offensive to her than the work of the Chevrolet dealership.

One morning after breakfast I went outside (in those days kids could walk around outside without supervision & without fear of being snatched from their own yards by pedophiles & kid traffickers) & took my familiar place on the chain eyesore that divided our house from the OK Used Car Lot. I looked across the familiar concrete landscape & my young heart skipped a beat. I was in love ……….

There on the lot was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen; a long & sleek old model Chevrolet that was painted sort of pale orange with a white top. The orange wasn’t really orange but an orange that seemed to have been blended with a container or two of Cool Whip. It looked just like a Creamsicle (anyone remember those?).

I dipped under the chain upon which I’d been sitting & swinging & ventured into the car lot. I was mesmerized by the car; drawn to it as if in a trance. Once I was standing beside it, it seemed massive. I remember walking all the way around it trying to get the courage to open the door. When I did, the inside had a different car smell; not new exactly but maybe a bit of new blended with a musty old smell. That musty smell wasn’t quite covered by the “new car smell spray” the guy who lived in the eyesore office building had sprayed inside the moment it arrived on the lot. Even the smell was fascinating.

The car lot guy didn’t talk to me that day but continued to wave at me when he saw me – usually as I was sliding under the chain & making my daily pilgrimage to the Creamsicle car. They moved it around on the lot & I followed it from location to location. Finally the dealer followed me out to the car & started a conversation. He said he’d seen me looking at the car & asked if I liked it & told me to look at it any time I wanted. I told him it was beautiful & that I LOVED it. He asked if we had a car. Did I think my mother would like that one? How would I like it if it were MY car?

We didn’t own a car for a number of reasons. Cars were just too expensive on my mom’s limited budget & she didn’t know how to drive. There never was a real need to learn because we lived on the bus line & there was no problem walking wherever we needed to go as long as the weather was good. People actually used walking in those days to get from place to place & not just as exercise between trips out in the car. All that didn’t stop the used car dealer from pouncing, however. Like a cat with a lame mouse as a target, he mostly stalked my mom; telling her about the Creamsicle car & my apparent love for it, the convenience of actually being able to drive, the joys of automobile ownership. I even made her walk over to the dealership with me after hours to look at that ugly car, hoping she would somehow see the beauty that I saw.

Considering the constant annoyance from the dealer almost every time she stepped out of the house (she tried to avoid him by hiding or only venturing into the yard on Sundays & after dealership hours), I’m pretty certain my mom would have come to view the Creamsicle car as readers saw Christine, only Stephen King hadn’t written it yet.

I don’t remember how the badgering from the dealer stopped but I think it may have been after my grandmother died & my mom & I moved into an apartment at the other end of town. He was that persistent – only death & relocation stopped his efforts to sell his cars. I hope Chevrolet rewarded him handsomely for his efforts.

To this day & right this minute I can see that Creamsicle car in my mind’s eye where everything remains crystal clear as though it just happened. I can even call up the smell of the Creamsicle’s interior; not quite new & a little musty.  I know that Creamsicle car was the beginning of my love of cars with futuristic exteriors & style.

My mom remarried & we moved to Virginia. While my step dad & I didn’t agree on much, we both liked the look & smell of new cars.

In those days the local dealerships would get the new year’s model a couple of months before it was revealed to the public & would keep it under wraps. My step dad & his cronies always managed to maintain a deep & abiding relationship with the dealer of the car of their choice, hoping to wangle an invitation to see the new model before it was publicly revealed. Mostly they did & would go, “by invitation only,” in the dead of night to view that sleek new car body & to be ready to compare the designs of all those new models that were about to burst forth on the automotive scene. The public was washed along on that wave of new model enthusiasm that was exciting & even exhilarating for some.

All that seemed to change abruptly &  practically over night with the first oil crisis.

Automobile manufacturers were driven by necessity to downsize their product & to do away with as many under-the-hood horses as possible to decrease the amount of fuel it took to get to your favorite summer vacation spot. Unfortunately, style took a tremendous hit when those extra horses made their loud exodus & met their demise. Parking lots began filling up with “econo-cars” with fewer horses & even less style. It was the end of an era, even though some car manufacturers still bravely offered an occasional car with incredible style.

Last week while I was driving somewhere in my 21-year-old Toyota Celica, I suddenly became aware of the other cars out there on the highway with me. These days I seldom notice but that day I realized that they all looked alike & the majority pretty much are in the same section on the color wheel. Cars today are all drab colored boxes. The larger SUVs are no different. They are just larger boxes.  Occasionally, a red, lime green or bright yellow painted box catches the eye … but they are still boxes.

People have remarked how surprised they are that I’m still driving a 21-year-old car. The driver’s side seat keeps sinking lower & the thing you adjust the height with doesn’t work anymore. I’m looking through the top of the steering wheel these days & I could use some new seat covers, but the driver’s side seat hugs my butt just right while I’m driving. It’s been an excellent car, as most Toyota’s of that age have been.  AND it still has incredible style. It’s a restful, dreamy, late evening sky blue & I’ve taken care of it…as it’s taken care of me. In a few years it will qualify as an antique, but so will I, which means … if we’re both still working … I’ll still be driving that car.

There’s a popular car commercial that advertises a lime green box being driven & ridden in by several really cool hip-hop rodents. The car is just a box but the little rodents are real attention getters.

Sadly, most of today’s automobiles, with greater gas mileage & electric capabilities, lack style & individuality.  Most seem less perfectly designed for average sized people & better well suited to rodent drivers.

I would love to see that Creamsicle just one more time. I can imagine it & even SEE it in my mind’s eye driving down the highway towards its proper place in history.

 creamsicle

 

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11 Responses to “Creamsicles and Boxes”

  1. cooldragon July 20, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    How does one upload a photo here, LInda?

    Like

    • heimdalco July 21, 2015 at 12:59 am #

      I don’t have a clue, John.I thought maybe you could include one with a response but you would have seen a prompt. Will let you know if I can find out …

      Like

  2. John Mason July 21, 2015 at 12:24 am #

    I really enjoyed reading this. Keep up the great work.

    Like

    • heimdalco July 21, 2015 at 1:01 am #

      Thanks so much, John. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy writing the blog & it’s especially rewarding when someone reads an entry & likes it.

      Like

  3. Anthony Moshonas July 21, 2015 at 2:36 am #

    Loved this Linda ! It brings back some Happy Memories…Oh yes and by the way I’d Love to have a Dreamsicle right now …Oh wait could it be a Creamsicle ? 🙂

    Like

    • heimdalco July 21, 2015 at 3:35 am #

      Thanks, Tony. Do you remember when the car dealerships in Amherst would get in the new cars ahead of time & people would go down after midnight & take a look? Cool …

      Like

      • Anthony Moshonas July 21, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

        Yep.. I remember all the new car models were covered with a car cover until the introduction date. We couldn’t wait to see the new models…..Been there Done that !! …Lol Lol. Thanks Linda. 🙂

        Like

  4. Teran Harrison July 21, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

    Linda, Jay and I so enjoyed this article. Your way of putting things is just like talking to you. We loved it. T e r a n

    Like

    • heimdalco July 21, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

      Thanks SO much Teran for reading my stuff. I love doing the blog.

      Very exciting times lately after getting my story included in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses book that comes out today. Article in the AMherst paper & I was on Living in the Heart of Virginia Yesterday. I’ll be doing a book signing for Chicken Soup at Givens on September 5.

      Thank you so much for your spport

      Like

  5. Willy July 22, 2015 at 2:07 am #

    Linda, I can almost see you swinging on that fence and finally getting enough nerve to walk around it. You have such a gift of writing and it was sad that the OK Car Man didn’t give your mom the car and she learned to drive and you two drove it for years and years. Yes, we’re driving “boxes” (except for you) and even tho your car burns oil, it’s still a good car that has taken us all over the place.
    My wife the writer …. ahhhh!

    Like

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