I received a letter the other day from my friend Lolly, saying, “Did I tell you that I got my laptop recycled. They assured me that it wouldn’t feel any pain. Sniff.”
It was the “sniff” at the end that tugged at my heart and brought back so many memories.
The first was about a go-cart my father built out of a milk crate for my brothers Mikey and Chucky. It had a wood shaft and wood cross bar, with eight-inch wheels, and it was steered by a rope. It looked exactly like what a kid would race in a 1930s soapbox derby, and it was the envy of the whole block. My brothers loved it.
However, they got bigger, we moved to a new house, we all grew up, and…
What happened to the go-cart?
Another time, my father bought my mother an ill-fated spaghetti-making machine. It was supposed to be an anniversary present, but after she unwrapped the box, she looked at him in horror and asked, “What do you expect me to do with that?”
Certainly she never used it to make spaghetti, so where did it go? Is it now a doorstop in Southern Illinois? Is a sailor using it as an anchor for his dinghy? Did time and circumstances deliver it to a garage sale in Delaware where a born-again housewife (after retiring as CEO from a Fortune 500 Company) plopped it on a counter, rolled up her sleeves, and actually made spaghetti with it?
Then there was my father’s rowing machine. It was constructed of sturdy golden oak, and the tension on its oars could be adjusted to make them easier or harder to row. My father used it to keep fit and never had an extra pound on his trim frame. We kids rowed on it across imaginary oceans to harpoon sea monsters and whales.
Time passed. We grew up. We grew old. My father became ill, and he stopped exercising on that beautiful, beautiful machine.
Who is rowing on it now? A young man reveling in its efficient design as he builds up his body to join the Marines? A teenaged girl pulling on its oars to tone her muscles so that she can crack coconuts with her bare hands and look lovely in a strapless summer gown?
Then there was my folding bicycle. When I moved to New York, one of the few things I brought with me was an ingenious two-wheeled mechanism that could be unscrewed and folded so that it I could easily pack it into the trunk of a car, if I’d had a car, or if I were so inclined (I wasn’t) carry it like a fruit basket on top of my head.
For years I took that bicycle with me from apartment to apartment as my fortunes ebbed and flowed. Then one day…poof…like a puff of smoke in a magician’s memory, it was gone.
My biggest regret, and I know where it went and who I gave it to, was my wonderful red IBM Selectric typewriter. What was I thinking when I gave it to my friend across the street? Had I been seduced by new technology? Had I come to resent its replaceable-typestyle ball and longed for a newer, flimsier daisy wheel? Did I not realize that I was replacing the equivalent of a Rolls Royce with a newer, flashier, and cheaper Hyundai? And since my friend is long gone and my IBM Selectric is now buried in the debris of a closed business, how do I get it back?
Lastly, of course, was my white Jeep. We had a history, my white Jeep and I, and it was a happy one. My husband Charlie bought it from a friend, and it was love at first sight. It had four doors, four-wheel drive, and four-speed automatic transmission. Charlie loved it because it was white, visible at night, and because it was a Jeep. I loved it because it drove like a dream (dreams can be bumpy), and I felt safe. Then Charlie died and it became my Jeep. But it was still a link to Charlie. He and I had gone everywhere in it and had such fun, so when I had to drive alone to far away jobs through treacherous weather to unfriendly cities, I was protected by an invisible shield of what once had been.
My Jeep got me through the tough years of figuring out how to fight dragons by myself. It was a true and loyal steed, no less so than Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger. Trigger was stuffed and put in a cowboy museum, but when the terrible day came that I was told, “It can’t be fixed. You have to get another car,” I was less kind.
“Will they treat it with respect?” I asked when I surrendered to the inevitable.
My mechanic sighed and lied. “Yes, of course,” he said.
Still, though, one wonders. The go-cart. The folding bicycle. My father’s rowing machine. My typewriter. Charlie’s Jeep. Is there a Happy Hunting Ground for objects we once loved, which gave us so much pleasure?
As my friend Lolly said, we can only hope that they didn’t feel any pain.
And as a final epitaph, just … Sniff.
Shelly Reuben has been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. She is an author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2014