Thursday, May 21, 2009
Packing the Car
The classic summer story: mid-June 1979, a turquoise Pontiac Catalina with white vinyl interior waiting patiently, quietly overheating in the hot sun, trunk open to be filled, at the fire hydrant on a corner in Brooklyn.
Father sweating and shouting and banging luggage down the stairs, mother standing guard against ever-advancing meter maids wielding ticket pads, two little girls flittering, racketing, and generally getting in the way.
Finally, the car is packed. It is packed. To the gunwales, the trunk filled to bursting, and besides that every last nook and cranny crammed full. Of what? Children; various pets; a cello, two violins, a flute; art supplies; clothes; toys; journals; books to be read; for several summers my mother's dissertation notes, her typewriter, her manuscript; special pillows; an elaborate lunch of fried chicken, or egg-and-caviar sandwiches, or cold hamburgers.
We did not travel light.
When I think of all those summer vacations in the Adirondacks, I always think first of the packing and unpacking of the car. The dread, the heat, the horror. The anticipation, the fussing, the aching muscles. Things forgotten and turned-around-for. The unnecessary things packed and transported but left, all summer long, in a dark corner of the cavernous trunk.
Arriving and unpacking. Already thinking two months ahead to the end of summer and the inevitable re-packing.
Summer vacation, as a little girl, was framed by these packing episodes. We were seized with a madness of Mustn't Leave Behind. A desperate shoring-up of familiar objects against change. Every eventuality, seen and unforeseen, must be provided for.
There would be no badminton game without a birdy, no quiet moment without a comic book, no summer cold endured without the grape-flavored Dimetap, no scenic view confronted without pastels and sketch pad. Never would we be caught unprepared!
*"Pontiac Muscle" by Mike Mertz, from Flickr Creative Commons