Saturday, September 04, 2010
My dad's car
Laval, QC, October 2009
I had been hearing stories about my father's Renault Gordini (a sportier version of the venerable R8/Dauphine) ever since I was a munchkin. It's the car he owned when he and my mom got married, the car that unceremoniously ended its time with the family long before I came along in a puff of smoke and flame, the car that, by today's standards, was all style and notably less substance.
But none of that matters now. Because somehow, this vehicle - well, not this particular vehicle, as this is merely a photo of a dinky car, while the actual Gordini was long ago melted down and re-cast as a planter just outside the entrance to the Airport Hilton - weaseled its way into the psyche of our family in a way that no car since has managed to do.
To wit, we don't swap stories about the burgundy Chevy wagon (was it a Biscayne? I can't remember) or the gold, then silver Ford monster-wagons we owned when the company paid the gas bill (man, imagine that!) or the fire engine red AMC Concord wagon (sense a pattern here?) with woody appliques on the sides and enough black crushed velour on the inside to outfit a Las Vegas lounge.
Yet this car, a car I never saw first-hand, never rode in and, frankly, have never seen another example of on the road ever since, became a character in the stories my parents told about their just-begun adventure. They personified it, reflected how much character it had, and allowed it to set the tone for the years ahead, when cars of every stripe would connect our far-flung family in ways the young couple at the wheel of this ill-starred foreign car could hardly foresee.
Your turn: A car that mattered to you. Please discuss.
About this photo: We had returned to Montreal barely two weeks after we had left. That's how long my father had been gone, and we were home with my mom, slowly, tentatively beginning to go through some of the things in the house. His things. I found the dinky in the catch-all on top of his dresser and had to catch my breath - something I've been doing a lot over the last almost-year. It was a little the worse for wear, as witnessed by the missing tire, but that was irrelevant in the context of the day. I immediately thought of why he would have bought this overtly foreign car when the conventional wisdom of the day would have pointed him toward a bigger, more conventional piece of Detroit iron.
But my father wasn't conventional. Not then, not ever. And for better or for worse, he lived - and drove - on his terms. I guess I was meant to find this car after all.