Author: Ramos, Jean


I think we are all getting just a little bit weary of being “jerked around” by spring. Spring officially began on March 20, that’s over two months ago and here we are, still with our patio cushions in winter storage and wintery clothes still hanging near the front of the closet.

Last week, when I thought the rain had quit for awhile, I got out the car washing stuff and gave my old “run about” car a good cleaning, vacuumed it out and cleaned the windows. I have no emotional attachment to this vehicle, there’s nothing about it that would cause envy. It’s just transportation. I force myself to clean it and keep it serviced. This got me to thinking about the attachments we can form to material things, be it a car, a guitar, a pair of shoes or a coat, etc. Why is it that we get attached to some things and have no feelings one way or another for something else that’s similar? I determined that it’s the “history” we have with the object; the story that goes along with it.
Regina Bartlett recently wrote a column about Tom’s Jacket. She associates that jacket with her friend, Tom Tworek. Cliff has Lloyd Nolan’s old guitar and we all know it’s a treasure to him because he loved ‘Ole Lloyd and has many fond memories attached to that guitar. I have an old Lyle guitar that is a replica of a Gibson Hummingbird. For years I sang all my “drinking and cheating songs” while playing that old red sunburst guitar. It represents my former life and serves as a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve traveled. We have connections to certain things because of the memories connected with them. Sometimes we even write songs about them, songs like “Family Bible,” “You and My Old Guitar,” “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” etc.

Back in February 1986, my husband had made a trip up to Humboldt County to be with his father who was hospitalized. This meant that he would not be home for Valentine’s Day, and we felt bad about that. I got a phone call from him and he said, “I want you to fly up here for a couple days.” When I arrived, he met me at the airport with a bright red Pontiac Grand Am, a Valentine’s gift. This was a very special car to me not only because of the sentiment but because it was the very first new car that I ever had, and it was mine exclusively! If anyone were to ask me about my most favorite car I ever owned, it would be my Grand Am. I washed my little car every week, and waxed it frequently. I hated it when people wouldn’t use the door handles and would get finger prints on the painted surfaces. I was a little extreme in my desire to keep it pristine. I know… there’s a word for that.

I loved having a dependable car to travel up and down the state. I’d visit my mother who lived in Hoopa, which is about a seven hour drive from here (six hours if you’re driving a red Grand Am). It had a stick shift which made it fun to drive, especially over the mountain ranges. This was back when the cassette player was the thing. I had taped all of my favorite vinyl albums and made cassettes for the car. I think I was big on George Jones and Merle Haggard at that time; I also played a lot of Southern Gospel.

One day, I got a phone call from one of my favorite aunties. Yes, she is a little eccentric, and unpredictable but she needed me. She was calling me from a pay phone in a very remote campground way back in the hills, a place called Deer Lick Springs. She wanted me to come and get her but she didn’t want anybody to know where she was. Terry told me, you better go see what you can do. I put some AAA maps in my little red car and headed out. I traveled north on I-5 then headed west on Hwy. 36 outside of Red Bluff. When I got to where I was to turn off of Highway 36, I began to get concerned because the maps indicated that I would soon run out of pavement. I ended up on a dusty old logging road that wandered around the mountains. There were a few turn offs but I tried to stick to the road that appeared to have the most recent tire tracks. I was thinking of Hansel and Gretel when I eventually came to a clearing and there was my auntie out in front of a little campground store, waiting for me. She was acting very mysterious, which wasn’t unusual for her so I decided to just go along with whatever she suggested and make it an adventure.

She told me she knew a better way to get out of there, and that we shouldn’t go back the way I came in, “just in case.” We headed out and sure enough, we found a different way out and came into a little town called Platina. We stopped at a little café for lunch and coffee and she made conversation with the waitress and said something like, “If anybody asks about us, you just tell them we headed east.” So we got back in the car and headed north, she was riding shotgun and calling all the shots. I was beginning to enjoy our little escape from reality just because she was getting such a kick out of it.

I fueled my dust covered Grand Am up in Hayfork and went north a little ways farther until we hit Hwy 299. I had decided to take her to Hoopa to visit my Mom (her sister). As we headed westward on 299, she started giggling, I asked her what was so funny. She said, “That waitress thinks we headed east;” she was enjoying all the “intrigue,” as she called it.

My Aunt considered herself the repository of all the family history. We began the next leg of our journey with her asking me, “Is there anything you need to know?” She then launched into stories about family members and friends; things that may be true or imagined, but they were “secrets” she thought I could be trusted with.

We spent a day or two with my mother, long enough for me to detail my car before Auntie felt that we should “hit the road again.” We decided to go east this time and our adventure took us over a few more mountain ranges and we ended up at her youngest son’s place in a town called Lookout which is east of Mt. Shasta. Finally, after a couple days there I told her that I should be headed home. I brought her home to stay with us for a short time. This is my last living Auntie; she is now close to 90 and in a Care Facility near Redding. I’ll always remember the “excellent adventure” that we took together in my little Grand Am.

When my oldest daughter was ready to leave home for college, it was in the little red Grand Am that we transported all her things to a dormitory at UC Davis. A few short years later, we drove the same car to go shopping for her wedding dress. My younger daughter and I took it out shopping for her prom dresses and to her high school graduation.

It was in my little red Grand Am that I made my final trip to visit with my mother and say my last good-bye. It never let me down during the few years I had it. It faithfully served me well as I attended school programs, church meetings, weddings and funerals. When the odometer hit 130,000 miles, I decided to sell it and get a different car. It was with a tear in my eye (and a few bucks in my hand) that I watched a stranger drive off (heading east) in the little red Valentine.

I can’t remember what kind of car I replaced it with. I’ve had several cars since, some new and some used but there’ll never be another car that has a special place in my heart like my 1986 Grand Am.

I guess if you’re reading this, I’ll plan on seeing many of you at Grass Valley. It may be the next best thing to the real Rapture.

Posted:  5/22/2011

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