Two weeks ago, on a hot Saturday morning, Shawn called from KC. "I'm on my way," he said. True to his word, he was bringing the Olds to St. Louis. I wasn't sure what to do for the next 4 or 5 hours. Usually it's like straighten up the living room, vacuum, stuff like that. But this was the first time I'd ever prepared to welcome a car. And an old one, at that. Given the hot day - climbing into the mid-90's - I was worried about the car making it the 250 miles. So I straightened up the driveway, picked up some dead branches. I probably would've vacuumed it if the cord would've reached.
At 2:30 he called. "I'm at the Loew's parking lot in Kirkwood," he said. "I'll be there in a few minutes." Loews? What did he do, come to St. Louis to go shopping? Turns out, he trailered the car in. Smart move. He wanted to drive up to my house in the car.
A half hour later I was standing at the top of my driveway, waiting, listening, remembering. How would she look? How would she sound? How would I feel about someone else driving her? I waited and sweated, held the camera at the ready. Before long I heard the deep purr of a not-new car. A deep rumble. And there, around the bend in our street, came the '65 Olds Jetstar.
If you've ever gone back to the house where you grew up, the grade school you attended, met an old girl friend you'd lost contact with, even pulled out a high school year book or an old baseball glove.... if you've ever done any of those, then you know how I felt. Joy. Sadness. Excitement. Longing. A feeling that all is right with the world, that some of the good things of life will always be there for you. And one other compelling feeling that I come to experience more often these days. The feeling of time gone by, all too quickly.
A poem came to mind, days later.
"Across the fields of yesterday,
he sometimes comes to me.
A little lad just back from play,
the boy I used to be."
Not to belabor this nostalgic event, I'll just say the car was all I had hoped it to be. And Shawn was the right person to own it. For he deeply cared about it, wanted it to be perfect, had worked hard to recreate its beauty, knew more about cars than I did. I had forgotten how well designed the car was, a low, streamlined, powerful presence. How magnificent the dark and light blues were. I drove it around the neighborhood, feeling strangely comfortable in it. Shawn and Mary Lee and I visited for a long time. He told of his endless search for parts, his efforts to restore it as close to the day that I bought it, the same year Mary Lee and I were married.
That evening we drove to Blueberry Hill for dinner. Top down. Shawn was behind the wheel; I didn't want to risk hitting something. The 3 of us sat in front. You could do that in those old convertibles. Drove up and down Delmar afterwards, ala "American Graffiti." Then hamburgers for dinner.
The evening ended too quickly, and Shawn decided he was going back to KC that same night. After taking Mary Lee home, I followed him to Loew's and helped him put the Olds back on the trailer. We shook hands, promised to stay in touch, and he said he'd bring her back when he had finished all he wanted to do. Then, for the second time in my life, I watched her roll away, into the night at the edge of the parking lot.
One reassuring thought stays with me. After 46 years, both my marriage and my Olds are still running. It doesn't get much better than that.