Recommended Listening: I’ve Seen All Good People, Yes
Don't surround yourself with yourself,
Move on back two squares,
Send an instant karma to me,
Initial it with loving care.
I wonder, and I say this with all sincerity, if children will ever be able to appreciate the feel of sweaty summer legs on the kind of woven plastic, stick to your rump, hyper melted car interiors that once took me wherever I needed to go in the height of summertime?
The thought came to me when I was buckling Brody into his car seat today. It is soft with stylish cow print, and it put me in the mind to ask my dad what kind of car seat my parents had once had for me.
Upsettingly, my dad does not remember any car seats for me. Apparently, as a baby, my parents placed me in the back of their car, and prayed that I had the where-withal to position my weight against turns, and so maintain my stability through trips, both short and long, smooth, and *gulp* bumpy. I guess the only other alternative was strangulation by seat belt.
My mom remembers differently. She says that she used the same seat with me that she had once used with my brother in the late 60s. As I was born in ’76, this is also not too comforting a thought, though of course, better than nothing.
So many of my memories are centered on the family car, though none before around 4 years of age. I had originally attributed this to being too young to remember, but now I am attributing it to concussions sustained while free range in the back of a moving vehicle . . .
Children now are to be in booster seats until 12 years of age, and don’t get me wrong, they are safer for it. Brody is 2, and still faces backward, which I know is perhaps neurotic, though the Swedish keep their children facing backwards until 3, so at least uprooted Swedes don’t think me insane.
My memories of the car are from the back of our old American Motor’s Eagle station wagon. When I think of this car I think of 8-tracks and Ernie Harwell. I also think of the carpeting in the back of the station wagon, which was so often my place. I would sit in that back area and let the sun hit my legs. In the summer, when we were done at the pool, the rug was scratchy, and I would lay my towel down on top of it, and feel blessed.
The back of the Eagle was a place full of Sesame Street books and McDonald’s mugs, and it was mine. I can still recall the way the sun bounced off of my Return of the Jedi collector’s mug, and the way the stars shone as we drove home from the theatre at night.
When I look back at this time, I think of the way we all seemed to be doing the same thing, living one big collective experience. Somewhere, in cars next to me, other kids were sitting in the back of their station wagons watching the stars and listening to Ernie Harwell. Perhaps they had just seen ET, or The Goonies, and were filled with the wonder of summer and the harmony that we were all in this together.
I wonder if Bro will have that same nostalgia? The late 70s and early 80s were a time when pop culture knit us together and let us believe that we were all, somehow, Jedi’s.
As we drove home today from the market, I thought about the other kids in cars next to us. Our collective experiences these days are much harder to nail down. Technology and the world it has created make me think that, if Star Wars were to be made today, it would be more like Avatar, a vast, lumbering techno-drone if you will, and less like the personal Star Wars we once knew and loved.
But perhaps we have traded something in for another? My son will grow up in a world where the massive cultural expanse of it all will create a larger identity, and while we can never know everything, we will be richer for the chances that are given.
So no, Bro will never know what it is like to crawl free through the back of my car, and in the grand scheme of things, this is fortunate. Perhaps he will even remember these days because of it. I will keep sacred the memory of what once was for my grandchildren, and embrace this new frontier that is ultimately a galaxy far-far away from the one I once rode around in.
I remember the day we said good-bye to the Eagle. American Motors had been bought by the French, and my dad was done with station wagons. I remember seatbelts from that time on, and FM radio. I had the where-with-all, slight though it was, to know that something was passing. It was of something personal, nothing grand, a dear moment that I can return to whenever I close my eyes.