I believe in the late adopters. Those few individuals who maybe still prefer the messy, holistic hum of cassette tape to the too-crisp sound of mp3. Those who still insist shooting their family portraits on Polaroid, who care more about written letters than email. Because I believe in these so-called-“stragglers,” I believe in my Dad and in “Old Blue.”
Old Blue, as my siblings and I termed it, was, in fact both Old and Blue. A navy 1984 ’88 Oldsmobile, with a broken grill and radio antenna, but a smell as clean as Sunday school. For 15 years, my dad drove this ugly, blue, yacht-of a car, although he fondly referred to it as “the Lovely Blue Car.” “Should we take the Lovely Blue Car?” “Go vacuum out the Lovely Blue Car.” “The Lovely Blue Car is at the mechanic.” Which it always was. It made an embarrassing click-a-clack click-a-clack noise from the wheel or hubcap area, and at about six o’clock every night you could hear it struggling up Acuff before you could see it, serving as sort of a suburban dinner bell.
Although a constant embarrassment for my siblings and I, it was sort of sweet to see how much he loved that piece of junk. Initially this drove me crazy, as I grudgingly piled into this antiquated eyesore after soccer practices, watching with covetous eyes as my teammates jumped in their mother’s new SUV’s and minivans with dual sliding doors.
Even after Old Blue was stolen and found abandoned in a warehouse parking lot in Kansas City, Dad wasn’t phased or tempted to let it retire. Rather, he nursed it back to health, determined it could still be driven. I hated this dogged determination of his, and cursed under my breath as I cleaned cigar ashes out of the dashboard and coin holder and carefully picked up shards of glass from the broken side window. After the robbery, the car became even more of an embarrassment to me as a break in the steering column meant it no longer required a key to start, or to drive. I assumed Dad would find this a nuisance, but he just kept on driving it, and taking pride in showing friends of mine how he started the car, keyless. I didn’t see why Dad wouldn’t just let it go, get a nicer looking vehicle and move on with the times.
However, ten years later, after car attachments of my own, I’ve realized just how important Old Blue was. Now when I think of my childhood, I think of Old Blue—the two are inexorably inseparable. I recall Sunday drives across Western Illinois or Eastern Kansas, ice cream stains, fights, teary highway shoulder spankings, heated games of twenty questions. My childhood can be summed up as the time between climbing in and out of Old Blue, my tiny, curious limbs jumping onto worn seats.
After my freshman year in college, Dad finally said goodbye to Old Blue. Although I kept silent, I was sad to see it go. I know Dad was too. This was truly the end of an era. Neighbors and Church members didn’t know what to think the day Dad came cruising along in something other than Old Blue. The new car just didn’t quite fit.
My last summer home from college I was rummaging through the garage when I came across my dad’s, 30 year old sky-blue Schwinn. It’s rusty, and shaky and squeaks on our bike rides to Shawnee Mission Park. If he ever retires that, I wouldn’t know what to do.
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