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This morning while cruising Daddy’s photo album, looking for pictures of my Uncle Jim who died earlier this week, I found what I couldn’t find when I was writing about vehicles: Some beautiful pictures of my favorite car of all time, the one we called The Big Buick. (And yes, the words were always capitalized when they were spoken. This car was IMPORTANT.) It was a 1953 Buick Roadmaster, and over the years it developed a life of its own. We had a few other things around our house growing up that were capitalized for emphasis. The Good Books (not The Bible, but Grolier’s Book of Knowledge). Mom’s Room (source of all that is wonderfully secret at Christmastime). You get the idea.

Daddy had a habit of buying and selling vehicles. I remember a couple of times when we had two cars and a truck, and Daddy was the only driver. But he bought The Big Buick not too long after I had a bad accident that left me bleeding and in desperate need of a dentist, and Mom didn’t have a car at home to drive. It was huge, British racing car green, with a cream top. And it had all the bells and whistles possible.

Mind you, this was a 1953 model, but it had front and back radio speakers with independent controls. And it had hydraulic power windows that could be raised and lowered from the driver’s side door or at each window. And power-adjusted seats.

The Big Buick, Easter 1957, Melody and Fawn

The Big Buick, Easter 1957, Melody and Fawn

I remember Mom learning to drive in The Big Buick. After I had a rather harrowing experience with an uncovered septic tank, a cave-in, and a desperate need to get me to a dentist to fix my face, Mom finally bowed to the need for a driver’s license. And ten years later, chomping at the bit but much more nervous than I had expected, I learned to drive in the same car. And many years after that we discovered that, when we would take the Menehune Maru, our little fishing boat, off the beach at Avila’s third pier, my very young but very scared to be in the boat little brother would take The Big Buick out for a joyride into Avila Beach proper, and sometimes on into San Luis Obispo. He truly kept his guardian angels hopping, as he never had a single mishap, and always managed to get the car back into the right parking place with the boat trailer re-attached before we came back ashore.

When we vacationed, Mom and Daddy would load The Big Buick’s backseat floors with our luggage and miscellaneous “stuff”, and build a bed the full width of the car. This provided plenty of room for three kids over a 10-year age span to sprawl, eat, sleep, and otherwise be comfortable on our travels. And on the floor on the front passenger seat would sit our Scotch Cooler, home of frozen grapes, orange slices, and snow cone ice. Sometimes there was even room for Mom’s feet, but not often.

And when we were really craving excitement, Daddy would take us to a stretch of road not far from home where there were “arroyos” or water run-off channels, and we would approach the dip with Melody shrieking her baby voice into Daddy’s ear, “Go fatter, Daddy, go fatter!” And he would.

What about you? Is there a favorite vehicle in your past, one that is so wound up in your family history that you’re not sure where the stories begin and end? Tell us about it in the comments, or send me a message. I would love to share.

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