The family VW Bug. There were six of us and there was no complaining getting in, even if you had to jump in while it was on the move, which for a while was the only way to do it because it was hard to get going with everyone already inside. Once on the go, any number of neighbors could hop in. Some of our best friends ran after us in bathing suits swinging towels. My mom and her best friend practiced driving stick on that bug. I never saw two ladies laugh so hard. There was no hopping on the bug that afternoon.
Same bug I holed up in during a blizzard one afternoon years later, getting home with no key. The bug had become a permanent structure on the side of the house. You had to lift up the cover and crawl in. I think the earth had found a home inside. It was always warm in there. The cabin still held the smell of the engine. That afternoon, in high school now, I sat on the back seat remembering times like the one above. The seats were rust red, lined with white. I remember them as rubber — something we’d never make seats like now. Tough as tires. The steering wheel was white and had a rod for a horn that went around the inside of the wheel. The center of the wheel was a beautifully minimalist design. The knobs on the dash were simply delightful. I’d run my hands over everything in there like my eyes weren’t doing the seeing, but my hands instead. The pale grays and off whites were marvelous, and while you had to touch them to get the full effect, looking at them, you could also feel them. Thinking, seeing and feeling were all the same in there. What is it? Neurons that wire together fire together? Knobs were smoothed over but were never going to wear. The stick shift was really a stick, too. It was a place down to earth, but heavenly, a swirl of roots and ideas that made me fully present but at the same time, lost in time.
Hunkered in there for the duration, snow lightly but steadily unrelenting outside, I recalled my first sip of beer from a six-pack someone stashed on the back seat. By my beer standards today, which wouldn’t be anything to brag about if there weren’t two craft breweries in every town around me as far as I’d ever care to drive, it must have been awful — something like carbonated rice water. But every single first swig since, including the odor that wafts up from the head as I lift a glass to my face, is simply a memory of that first taste of beer template.
That snowy day I barely squeezed out of the igloo of a bug, I made tracks up to my front door, which was in the dark now. There was a light on inside, and no other tracks around. And the door was open. Too bad I didn’t just see if the door was open when I had gotten home. Knowing much more now than I did then (as far as sheer amount of knowing I guess, not quality of knowing) I understand that I don’t always know what I’m up to, and that day could have been one of those days when I had a plan for myself I didn’t really know.
Years since I unconsciously chose to sit in that bug and let my early life in the same bug wash over me, I found out that I wasn’t the only one to have those moments in there by the side of our house. We pretty much all did, my three brothers and I, and apparently my parents too, but also a few neighbors. It was a place for memories of memories.