12 September 2008

ode to the volvo

when i was about seven years old, i was walking home from the pool one evening with my pop, and felt quite singled out and privileged when he shared a secret. "merzy, tomorrow i'm getting a new car." "what kind of car?!" "well, what kind of car do you think i should get?"

a question lovely enough, but i recognized his tone of voice. he and mom had used that tone only a year earlier when cameron was still shaking and baking inside the mother meri oven. at FHE one monday evening they casually (translation: indifferently) asked, "so what should we name the baby?"

me: michael! or -- or bobby!

e: charles! william! (even then, elizabeth was attracted to power. just kidding.)

sarah: probably hiccuped or something. she was not quite 2.

brief silence.

dad: well, that's nice; thanks for your suggestions. we're going to name him cameron.

i wondered 2 things at that moment:

a) why bother asking our opinions if they'd essentially already embroidered the name on his blankets, and

b) since i'd never heard of the name "cameron" before, did they just invent that name as they probably had mine?

and indeed so it was again. my father requested auto make and model referrals, and i suggested with alacrity, but these fell on loving but deaf ears. the decision had already been made, and the next evening my dad rolled up in this beauty:



thar she blew. in all her confidence and glimmer, i was introduced to THE VOLVO. i hadn't been a great enthusiast of station wagons before then, but hey! it was a new car! and it was MINE (or ours). i ogled and probably did not sit down for two minutes together until i got to go out for a spin. a new car. a new volvo car. mine (ours).

the volvo was initiated into our lives the proper eaton way. probably tri-annually my dad had told the story of buying a new mercedes when elizabean was a no more than yay high, a toddler with big ol' hair. the day after he'd claimed ownership, elizabeth decided it would be a great idea to throw up all over the fresh interior right as they pulled up to the house. dad would joke, "what, you couldn't have waited 30 seconds to be taken out of your carseat?" silly as it was for dad to chastise his firstborn when she was hardly aware of her own name, let alone societal norms and proper disposal of purged materials, it was even funnier when sarah christened the volvo in the exact same way 2 days after dad bought it. i never asked it, but i do believe the volvo appreciated the warm (literally) and welcoming gesture.

the volvo boasted leather seats, a tape player, cup holders that popped out, and a glove compartment that locked, (but unlike elizabeth's diary, this lock could not be compromised). as if those scintillating features weren't enough, being a station wagon, it was equipped with room enough in the trunk to store all the gear for whatever sport cam was working at the time. my absolute favorite feature on the volvo was its illustrious sunroof, and i dreamed i would one day, if i were a very good girl, be authorized to stand up and out of it like those teenagers did on tv outside moving limousines.

for many years, the volvo was the nice car. unlike mom's white astro van, the volvo wasn't often faced with the prospect of apple juice spills, muddy playground feet, etc. although we young ones occasionally rode in dad's car, when one inspected the door handle, one wouldn't find broken crayons and used capri sun straws stuffed inside. you found...a door handle. when you sat in the back seat, you didn't hear the crunch of returned homework assignments or a coloring book or have a capless marker poke your bottom or see a sock cameron had abandoned en route to the grocery store. you sat on the leather seat. for you see, dad's volvo elicited respect, and mom's van elicited...something else. dad was assiduously steady in maintaining the volvo, taking it in for any and every check up to avoid catastrophe in those moments when you least expect trouble. even as it became older and newer models of swedish wagons roamed the roads beside us, it was still reliable, clean and estimable. as the odometer's count reached the "pig choking" range, and we would suggest a trip to our friendly neighborhood car dealer, dad would look fondly at the volvo and swear he'd never trade it for anything else. it's tank-esque body style saw safely him through two ugly car accidents, and spared him further back trouble. for this, and many other volvo bonuses, dad was grateful.

you know, the volvo and my dad have a lot in common. built for comfort, not for speed. in it for the long haul. i mean that in the very best way. "just a guy/car tryin to help." the volvo could have irretrievably kicked the bucket when it lunked out on cameron in the wendy's parking lot in 2005. it could have kissed us goodbye when cameron "strongly nudged" the car ahead of him while driving (with what certainly must have been a very tranquil, focused group of teens) to EFY in santa barbara in 2006.


before this we used to laugh about its 2 sounds. loud and louder (kinda like one of dad's sneezes). as soon as you wanted to move past 20 mph it would go from "grrrrrr" to "GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR." when cam smushed the bumper, it started leaking funky oils and smelling like the dickens, but after this and every other visit to the mechanic, the volvo softly convinced all around that its good fight was not yet finished. on a number of occasions, dad had another car picked out and waiting for him, but there was always a reason to hang on, and the volvo's loyalty was matched only by that of my father. and, as much fun as a new car could have been, we have to acknowledge there is comfort in familiarity, and the volvo, with its saggy ceiling, shredded leather seats, and non-functioning stereo system, has that in abundance.

i began to wonder what it would take to adios the volvo from our lives forever. my friends, i'll tell you. the answer lies in a smog issue, the repair of which would cost approximately four times the value of the car itself. with heavy heart i announce the farewell of THE VOLVO. saturday, september 13, the volvo will go the way of the world, to some place that is probably not heaven, for D&C makes no mention of such a place, but we trust it could never be anything like auto hell. wherever you goeth, we bid thee adieu, oh volvo, with love burning so brightly. thanks for the mem'ries.

7 comments:

Annie said...

Ah yes. The Mercedes story. It had been awhile...

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Merzy said...

sarah, that's what i said! you and elizabeth threw up in the cars.

James McOmber said...

Nicely done.

I demand a tribute to the huge white van. NOW.

byers babes said...

I'm so sad to hear this. I'll miss seeing it cruise the streets.

Elizabeth said...

I never got to say good-bye (sniff).

Jim Eaton said...

Thanks for the tribute to the Volvo. Like Heidi and our late next door neighbor Vic, the Volvo will be a special memory. However, unlike Heidi and Vic, the Volvo actually served a useful function. It traveled over 325,000miles over almost 20 years. It hauled baseball and rugby euqipment, guitars and amps, and my family. Good bye Volvo. Will someone please come home and christen my new Camry by throwing up in the back seat?