Monday, November 19, 2012

Camaro memories

A car much like the one I describe in the story.

My mom's last car was a fire-engine-red Chevy Camaro.

It was the early 1990s, and she used it mainly to commute back and forth to her job teaching at a local community college. This is remarkable because she was far from the typical Camaro driver, i.e. a brash, mullet-wearing young male with a lead foot and a hot temper. Instead, she was a kind-faced woman in her mid-40s, short in stature, soft-spoken and gentle in demeanor, and she wore a pair of over-sized glasses which gave her sort of an owl-like appearance. You'd probably have guessed her to be a librarian, but she drove a car beloved by hormonal teenage boys.

It was the unlikeliness of my mother driving a Camaro which led her to buy it in the first place. She needed a new car for work, and the whole family went to the auto dealership to watch as she picked one out. Of course, she and my father mostly concentrated on the sensible, dependable cars that parents usually choose in such a situation. But that Camaro stood out from everything else on the lot, almost beckoning us to it. My sister and I joked about how hilarious it would be for my mother -- this sweet, small woman -- to be behind the wheel of this monstrous muscle car. But the salesman who'd been tailing us could see that she was genuinely intrigued by the prospect of owning such a machine. My mother was in no way a rash or irresponsible person, but she decided on the spot to buy that Camaro.

She genuinely loved that vehicle. She'd tell me how the engine would surge at the merest pressure applied to the gas pedal and how the car would growl impatiently at red lights. It was a surprising side to my mother's personality, and it was good to see. She dropped me off at school a few times in that car, and instead of being mortified by being seen in the presence of my mother in front of my fellow students, I enjoyed the respect that car always got from the other boys. If it had been practical or possible, I would have been taken to school every day in that vehicle.

Cars play a big part of the folklore of many families, I think, because you wind up spending so much time in them together. There are certainly some memorable ones in the history of the Blevins clan, like the seemingly invincible black Vega we called "The Jelly Bean" or the hideously ugly station wagon whose vinyl upholstery would heat up on summer days and scald our legs. But that Camaro was probably the most eccentric of all our vehicles. We sold it not long after my mom died, but I kind of wish we'd held onto it. I'd love to take it for a spin now.

My mother definitely would not have approved of the following song, but I am dedicating it to her anyway. Maybe she would have laughed at it privately.

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