Friday, July 13, 2012

1969 Chevrolet Impala

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39

“I’m going to make you a book, Mama,” Dylan said to me last night and with great resolve he turned around and went inside the house to fulfill his mission.  I sat outside reading my book for a while longer, enjoying the gorgeous summer evening.  Evenings like that bring back sweet memories of my care-free summer days back in Panama when I was a little girl.  But it was time to come in the house for the mosquitoes were on attack mode already (another thing that reminded me of Panama). 

When I came in the house, Dylan walked to me with his “book” in his hands.  It was finished. It only needed stapled.  I took the bundle of folded papers from his hands and started to admire his work.  It was all a 6-year-old work of art should be.  I loved it all! But what stuck with me the most was the picture I saw as soon as I turned the first page.  It was a picture of a car with three passengers, Dylan and Grant on the back seat and Mama driving (he even drew me wearing my seatbelt!) 

The picture stuck with me.  It deeply touched me.  The three of us spend a great deal of time in the car.  It is in that old silver Honda Civic that many of our most intriguing, unexpected, irritating, joyful, profound and revealing moments happen on an almost daily basis.  My young son had captured a familiar scene in our everyday life which may impact his memory for many years to come; perhaps even for a lifetime…just like it did me.

One of the clearest memories of my childhood that I can conjure at will is the memory of riding in my Dad’s hunter green, 1969 Chevrolet Impala.  Don’t ask me how I remember the car’s year and make.  The fact that I do is a testimony to how imprinted in my memory the moments shared in that car still are.  I was just a very young girl when my Dad got it.  It was a formative moment for me, however, because it was the car he got when I first began to have real awareness of my surroundings.  It’s the first car, of all he’s had in his long life that I ever remember.  He got it in 1972 prompted by my brother who was a senior that year.  I still remember my Dad half-complaining about falling for my brother’s relentless quest to make him buy the car.  The thing was huge!  It’s the biggest car I ever saw! It barely fit in our carport.  I remember the 6-tail-lighted rear sticking out from under the roof.

There were so many wrong things with that car that it quickly became a money pit, and a constant source of complaints and arguments at home.  It would suddenly stall without warning.  The air conditioning never worked right. It consumed indecent amounts of gas.  It had an assortment of leaks of various fluids.  There was always some kind of warning light coming off and on.  Something was wrong with the brakes and sometimes it just wouldn’t start.  My Dad had a spare battery and a tool chest in the trunk, just in case.  Regardless of all its flaws, I know my Dad loved that car.  It was big.  It was comfortable.  It was smooth.  It was impressive.  It was his mobile castle.  My Mom never drove, so it was his baby.

He loved taking his family for a ride in it.  And that’s why I remember it so well.  I spent my childhood riding on that ship on wheels.  I can still feel the green leathery material of the back seat, and the sound it made every time I moved.  I could lay flat on that seat.  Often we would take long rides to Panama city and other distant places (4-5 hour-long trips tops) leaving early at dawn, so I’d lay on the green surface and watch the stars disappear and the sunrise come up all through the long windows of the Impala.

Many years went by and finally my Dad had to let go of his dear green dream-car.  It was a sad day.  We never had a big car again.  We never had an American-made car again either.  The era of the highly efficient, not-so-comfortable, nothing-special-about-it Nissan had come to stay in my Dad’s household.  Gone were the days when I could stretch out on the back seat.  No more dreams of green.  My childhood had also disappeared. 

I don’t know what kind of memories I am building with my boys as they constantly ride with me on the back of my beat up Honda Civic.  I know they are not nearly as comfortable as I was riding on the back of that big, old Impala.  I know it is not nearly as luxurious and impeccable as my Dad’s car was.  My car is an embarrassing mess.  It might not even be as leisurely and care-free as my experience was.  But I sure hope they are good memories that would last them a life time and that would make a positive impact in their lives.  I hope they can look back at these years when they are older and remember them with the same bittersweet nostalgia that I experience today as I remember the old days riding around in my Dad’s green, 1969 Chevrolet Impala.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4: 9)


  1. Wow! You DID spark some memories for me too! We had a 1965 Blue Chevy Impala. Perhaps we all remember the year of the car so clearly because it was a huge occasion to get a car back in the day & every detail is imprinted on my brain! (I can hardly remember the year of the car we have now!)I got the middle spot in the back - brother on both sides of me and my feet had to stay up on the "bump" on the floor...remember the "bump"? I also penned my car memories of my girls & I in our minivan..when I dropped them off at high school & then drove on to college. It's called Minivan Memories! Many good teenage mother/daughters talks in that car!

  2. Ha, ha...thank you for your comment. "Minivan Memories" I don't have any of those : ) but I do remember the "bump" : ) though I mostly got to ride alone in the back since my brother was long gone and my sister was also older and din't get to ride as long as I did. So I got that long back seat all to my self most of the time...what a blessing : )


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