By Rachel Barduson
Growing old is an art. It really is. We are a work of art, us humans. Our bodies are complex and amazing machines that, as we age, need more attention to maintenance, just like a car. And just like a car, we become “classic,” “vintage,” and “antique.”
A “wandering of my mind” all came about as my husband and I went to Grey Eagle a few weeks back to the Mid Minnesota Motor Heads Classic Car Show. Walking up and down the streets, gazing at those beautiful cars, gave us both pause in the art, polish, and machinery of classic models. We strolled alongside the cars as they lined the street, talking about the complexity of the machines, the parts that make up the engine – a smooth running engine that doesn’t quit. We talked about the shiny chrome, the tires, and the polished paint. These classic vehicles -- time capsules full of memories – pure perfection. And as we walked, we had fun with the thought, “If I were a car, which one would I be?”
My life as a car...yes, a car. It really doesn’t matter what my favorite classic car is, I am just going to pretend, for fairy-tale-stories-sake, that I am a classic that has lived my life like a car. Just like you, I took a test drive on the journey of life, an amateur test-driver with absolutely no experience. I was a new car on the road, not always sure who was steering the wheel or had the foot on the pedal. I have had a few bumps on my travels, but mostly, I could always be grateful for the road ahead. I didn’t always know what was over the hill. I broke some rules when the yellow line indicated no passing, and I did not always abide to the yield sign.
I’ve gotten pretty good mileage, but occasionally I have run out of gas. When I was nine years old I could hardly wait to be of an age that had two-digit numbers, like being 10. Full speed ahead. I was riding on air! I must have been just like the all-new 1963 Ford Falcon 300 – Series 50 – (Six and V8)...influenced by the Thunderbird. Yes, I would be the Ford Falcon simply because I really wanted to grow up to be a Thunderbird.
At the age of 10, I wanted to be 16. When I was 16 I didn’t realize that I was in pretty good shape and I took for granted my health, the physical abilities of 16-year-olds, and the shenanigans of a teenager. My transmission was running pretty well and, although I experienced a few flat tires on my journey to this point, I considered my antenna “to be up enough.” I tried not to make mistakes, although I threw caution to the wind on occasion. Things under the hood seemed to be running smoothly most of the time and the only thing I really knew how to check on dad’s car in 1969 (in real life) was the dip stick. Hopefully, I wasn’t a dip stick in the process of growing up.
When I finished college I envisioned a streamlined life, just like the streamlined cars of yore...the ones we see at car shows today. Sleek, with powerful engines. Just like a 1958 Buick. The ’58 Buick was advertised as “A completely new experience in driving. Here is power deliberately provided for your well-being and safety – power more than ample to handle easily any road situation you might meet.” Yes, I would be a ’58 Buick.
In my mid-years I tried to be a DeSoto. “So practical. The modern DeSoto upholstery fabrics and washable vinyl keep their good looks – even when the family includes several active youngsters.” I never aspired to be a Corvette or a Lamborghini – I was never cool enough to be one of those. But I was perhaps a Chevrolet Celebrity – simply because it has an interesting story. The Chevrolet Celebrity (a single-generation model) sold from 1982 to 1990 making it a relatively short-lived car. I hope I am remembered as dependable. The Chevrolet Celebrity reminds me of how fast our children grow up...the generations change...time is fleeting. Yes, I would be a Chevrolet Celebrity for my mid-life years.
From the ages of 50 to 70 I am going to pretend I was a muscle car. My husband says his favorite car of all time is the 1967 Chevrolet Malibu SS. So that is what I hope I was from about 45 to my present age of 70. He says it’s his favorite “because of the body style, and it’s fast.” I will go with that, pretending I am a 1967 Chevrolet Malibu SS – ever swift and “the style” he likes. Remember, this is a fairy tale of my life as a car. I hope by now that I have stayed polished and shiny with my headlights bright enough to see down the road of life – especially in the dark.
And so, I will be a Chevrolet Malibu SS until I get a few years older – and then I will become a Nash Metropolitan – an economy and sub-compact car sold from 1953 to 1961 – a car that was way ahead of its time and remains a favorite among collectors. They don’t make them anymore. In fact, they haven’t made them for a very long time. So yes, I will be a classic with age by becoming a Nash Metropolitan. And I will sing to the tune of The Highwaymen by The Highwaymen: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Chris Christopherson, classics in their own sense of the word...(excerpt and in part): “I was a highwayman, along the coach roads I did ride – I was a sailor, I was born upon the tide – with the sea I did abide. I was a dam builder, across the river deep and wide, where steel and water did collide. But I will always be around, and around and around and around and around and around and around. I’ll fly a starship across the universe divide and when I reach the other side I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can. Perhaps I may become a highwayman again. And I’ll come back again, and again, and again and again and again and again and again.”