When he was little, he spent hours lining up his Hot Wheels just so.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“It’s the parking lot at church,” he told me. Car to car, he explained who each owner was according to where they parked every Sunday morning.
He’d matched his toys to the real cars by the types of spokes and wheels.
A mother can be worried and fascinated at the same time.
Around the age of six, he announced: “I’m going to get a Cadillac when I grow up.”
“Oh, you are?” I responded, attempting to keep a straight face.
He nodded his head emphatically. “Yes. A blue one.”
His grandparents drove a blue Sedan de Ville. My husband’s stepfather bought it new in 1989, with forty miles on it.
I could understand the appeal. My boy was obsessed with cars. When I was growing up, I loved my grandparents’ car, too: a vivid red 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 (see A long time ago in a Galaxie far, far away).
The boy has always known exactly what he likes and doesn’t like, what he wants and doesn’t want. There are no proverbial shades of gray with him. He loves dogs. He loves music, especially old gospel songs. I joke that he was born seventy-five years old and he has never disagreed. When he fell in love with Cadillacs at age six, it was forever.
He began collecting Cadillac memorabilia, knew all the latest models and years. He knew the old ones, too.
“Ma-Ma and Pa-Pa say the Cadillac goes to me when they’re gone,” he said, his big brown eyes aglow, around age ten.
The de Ville was, at that point, twenty years old.
“I’m glad they want you to have it,” I tell him, even as I think Buddy, by that time the old car won’t be worth having . . .
Pa-Pa, a jolly, larger-than-life Scotsman, took meticulous care of his Cadillac, but after his death in 2014, it just sat in the driveway. Undriven. The seasons came with their ravages, year after year: summer’s blazing sun, autumn leaves gathering layer upon layer, winter’s snow and ice, spring’s thick coating of pollen.
Ma-Ma died last fall. We began cleaning out the house, my husband’s childhood home.
Our boy said, “It’s time to get the Cadillac.”
My husband and I looked at each other.
We looked at the de Ville.
It looked forlorn, awful.
But, to honor Ma-Ma and Pa-Pa’s promise to their little grandson long ago, we decided to see what could be done.
We had the car towed to the place where Pa-Pa bought it almost thirty years before. With a new battery, it fired right up, despite four years of sitting completely idle. It got new brakes, new fluids, new tires, and a much-needed bath.
The service rep called my husband: “You’re not going to believe it’s the same car. Everyone here thinks it ought to be in the showroom.”
We were skeptical . . . but the rep was right.
The boy—now a man—drove his father and me to the dealership to get the Cadillac, to bring it home.
It sat in the service area, waiting, gleaming, as if age and time had no meaning.
Touching the hood lightly with his fingers, our son whispered, “I wish Pa-Pa could see it.”
He took the wheel. His dad rode shotgun beside him.
I followed behind, marveling, as my son, at last, drove his shiny blue Cadillac down the country back roads into the setting sun.
Somewhere over the rainbow
skies are blue
and the dreams that you dare to dream
really do come true.
I note that when Judy Garland sings this line in The Wizard of Oz, she’s leaning on a big wheel.
On the de Ville’s front grille is a medallion with the Roman numeral VI. Our son learned that this is a Heritage of Ownership emblem given to Cadillac owners for each vehicle.
This was Pa-Pa’s sixth Cadillac.
Heritage emblems are not given anymore.