Joy’s Car


Joy's granddaughter drives Joy's car.
Joy’s granddaughter drives Joy’s car.

I walk up to the door of the large brick house, leaving my husband and my baby daughter behind, waiting in the Acura. Even though it’s summer, the air is cool and clear. The cashier’s check is in my hand, and I can see the bright yellow reason for my visit to this stranger’s house as I approach.

Part of me wonders what my mother would think if she were still here to comment—me helping Daddy with his purchase of a car off eBay. A car for goodness’ sake.

It’s a pretty little car—a bright yellow 1978 MG Midget.

The current owner greets me, “So there it is. Only one owner really, and older lady who traded it to me for some work done.”

We walk around the car. I look for any obvious signs of rust like my dad instructed me. I don’t see anything glaring. No license tags though. “I hope I don’t get stopped on the drive home.” I’m thinking like my mother—briefly borrowing trouble in my mind.

I get in and look at the gear shift. “Well, can we take her around the neighborhood?” I ask.

The owner and I run through the shift sequence several times. It is quite different from my Toyota Corolla, the clutch doesn’t engage quite the same way, and the brakes are a little soft. The car starts right up on the first try, though. The engine sounds strong, even if of a different era.

When we get back, my daughter is crying in her infant car seat, and my husband is trying to comfort her. I hand the owner of the MG the cashier’s check for $4000.00. I head out the driveway and begin the trek home, bill of sale in hand in case I get stopped for having no tags. Dad is bringing the classic car tags from Georgia when he comes to pick up his new toy.

I feel like tiny ant driving among the semis and SUVs of I-90, but the bright yellow Midget is fun to drive. Noisy, but fun.  It reminds me a bit of flying in a taildragger, with its fabric top and the sound of the engine—it has transported me into another time and place, one that I know my mother missed—one in which she felt better and wasn’t sick, one before she started to worry so much about everything. A time and place that I know my Dad misses too.

I get home without incident, and the MG takes its temporary place of honor in our garage, next to my husband’s Acura Integra—two fine sports cars of two different eras.

When my Dad arrives to drive the MG to Georgia the first thing he does is put on the license tag. We all take turns driving it on the farm roads around our house, putting the little MG through its paces. My dad begins to note the things that he will fix and redo on the car—it’s a list that will eventually include rebuilding the clutch and converting it from a 4 speed to a 5 speed transmission. But for now the most important change he makes is to add a front vanity tag—a plate painted in Florida Gator colors that reads “Joy’s Car.”

I think Mom would have approved.

©2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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