Memories Are Made Of This

 

Someone has offered my neighbour Grace a lot of money for her 1955 FJ Holden. She keeps it in a garage as big as a barn at the back of her house. She opens the garage doors wide to the morning every day as she fears mould in the upholstery.

The car hasn’t been driven for twenty five years. Not since Grace’s husband, Aldo died. It was his pride and joy. He was the first person in his family to own a car, one of the first people in our street to have a car. That FJ Holden was a big deal.

If Grace sells it to the Holden collector she will be able to afford air conditioning. Although she was born in Southern Italy she really feels the Sydney summers. It has been her dream for years to install air conditioning but she can’t afford it on her pension. She has old fans that whirr and click all night, interrupting her sleep.

But there is a problem. The car is not a transient thing. It is part of her memories, her history, the sight of it invokes feelings of a golden time in her life.

She told me of she and Aldo’s trips to the beach in the car in the 1960s. When there was no high rise and you could still see lizards and all sorts of beautiful birds in the bushland that grew almost to the shoreline.

When the water actually sparkled it was so clear and the sand was so clean it was as yellow as lightly toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled gently all around. She remembers the smell of the air, briny, crisp. It reminded her of the marketplace in her home town in Italy where people came from miles around to buy the town speciality – freshly packed anchovies in sea salt.

She shows me the little wooden box Aldo made for her decorated with shells and seaglass that she keeps in the glovebox. Her hands shake as she holds it, but her face is alive, youthful with joy. Sometimes she sits in the car and sings Aldo’s favourite song – It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones. I have heard her sing it many times but didn’t know who she was singing it for.

Grace loves the FJ Holden but on cloudless summer days when the mercury hits forty two degrees and the drone from the cicadas is deafening, she dreams of air conditioning.

In the early hours, when only the birds are up and I am trudging through the garden and out into the laneway to go for a walk, I see her through the garage window, polishing the car with a soft cloth and humming to herself. She is remembering another life, the softness in her face is as tender as the dew strewn on the grass. She is able to travel through time because of her love. The air is full of thoughts of days gone by, thoughts which sustain her. And I wish I had the money to keep her cool in summer, so she will not have to say goodbye to that which she holds so dear.

 

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29 thoughts on “Memories Are Made Of This

  1. ” But if I find out that you’ve changed at any time,
    It’s not unusual to find out that I’m in love with you , whoa , oh, oh, oh, oh, oh…”

    I don’t think Aldo will mind if she sells the car, and I’m sure he will continue to love Grace from beyond the grave. Whether or not she can bear to part with it is another matter. I think Aldo would be pleased to know Grace is comfortable. It sounds like she has great memories, and those will be there always. Tom Jones …what a character, and what a fantastic song. Thanks for the story Selma !

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  2. I have to say I would cling on to the car in that position. It would appear that the car affords more comfort than the heat takes away. Well, that’s the way it seems to me.

    I once gave away somethng that was precious to me – obviously I had not had it as long as this lady had – because I thought I didn’t need to actually be able to touch it for its meaning and importance to stay with me. It is probably the thing I most regret doing in my whole life. If I could have that moment back, I would on tightly to my “thing” and keep it with me.

    Beautiful writing as always and what a wonderful car.

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  3. I can certainly understand that longing to hold on to something that has so many wonderful memories attached to it. Right now, we’re living in the house where I grew up, and the thought of making any changes (updating the kitchen, for instance) troubles me. I grew up with that kitchen, changing it would almost feel like sacrilage.

    But… if I could sell the house to someone who would appreciate it, and treat it with respect, then it might not be so hard to let it go. Perhaps it could be the same for your neighbor. Obviously the person who offered her the large sum of money wouldn’t send the car over the nearest cliff just to see it crash. At the same time, there is much to be said for those comforts offered by things that harbor our good times.

    Excellent post, Selma.

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  4. OH! I never want her to sell that car! I’ rather donate my OWN money to help her. That car represents so much as you so eloquently expressed in this post.

    I really really hope she can find another way to make $ and KEEP that car!

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  5. Wow!

    There was an FJ Holden in the last episode of the latest Charley Boorman epic ‘Ireland to Sydney: By Any Means’ … same colour, as well. I never had an FJ … but I did once have the Vauxhall equivalent. Lovely car!

    I think, if Grace sold the car, Aldo would be happy … in that she can afford a little comfort, and that his beloved car will most likely go to someone who will restore it and look after it.

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  6. And … a big IF:

    If it was an R type Chrysler Valiant, and if I lived in Sydney, I’d buy it … and I’d make it my business to call on Grace once in a while, and take her for a ride in it.

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  7. What a dilemma. As someone who truly hates the heat I can understand her longing for ac especially as summer is approaching fast. On the other hand though, this car obviously provides comfort of another kind. It’s not just a “thing” to her, it’s a link to better and happier times and her beloved Aldo. I hope another way can be found to to get what she needs and keep what she wants.

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  8. how much could an air conditioner possibly cost?? but then i guess there is the added amount to the electric every month too…

    i think you ought to cover a can with a little sign that says “help grace save the holden!!” then go from door to door collecting a dollar from each neighbor,, more from those that will give,, and present it to grace with love from the neighborhood….

    that way she gets to keep her memories intact,, as well as have air conditioning,, and everyone gets the memory of the time the neighborhood pulled together and did something wonderful for one of their own….

    how could you ask for a happier ending than that??

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  9. PUNATIK – it is funny to hear a little old Italian lady singing ‘It’s Not Unusual’ in her garden. She still has quite a thick Italian accent. Songs can mean so much to us, can’t they? And cars.

    VIC – it is sad, isn’t it? But you’re right, to have the memory of such a love is a beautiful thing. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    RELUCTANT – I would keep it too. I wouldn’t want her to regret selling it, although by the sounds of it is going to a good home. It’s a difficult decision for Grace to have to make.

    KAREN – I know exactly what you mean. When my grandmother renovated the kitchen in the family home I was so upset. It seemed like she had just ripped out years of tradition and replaced them with shiny cabinets. It is hard to let go of those things we love, those things we see every day.

    GERALDINE – they are classic cars. I wouldn’t mind one myself. I hope she doesn’t sell it. I would feel really sad for her.

    MELEAH – I hope she can find a way too. I was thinking I might send this post to a local air conditioning company or the local paper and see if I can raise some funds for her. I’d like her to keep the car if she can.

    KATE – it is, isn’t it? It is worth so much to her. And I must admit, it is a gorgeous car. So cute!

    LINDA – oh, I hope so too. She is such a lovely lady!

    TRAVELRAT – I can see you doing that. You have a very kind heart. I also think Aldo would be glad to think of his wife feeling comfortable in summer. I agree with you about the Chrysler Valiants – they are absolute gems. Don’t make them like that, anymore.

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  10. GYPSY – I dread that intense heat too, so I completely understand where she’s coming from. But the car! It means so much. If it were me I wouldn’t be able to decide.

    PAISLEY – this is just such a fantastic idea. I am going to do it. I was speaking to my other neighbour about it and she was upset about Grace having to let the car go too. I’m going to organise it today. Thank you, hon. It’s the perfect solution.

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  11. Awwwww, this story tugged at my heart strings, if I had the money I would buy her an air conditioner. I hope she doesn’t have to sell her car.

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  12. And Groovy raises an eyebrow (a feat she can only achieve in the virtual world)and wonders how much air conditioning goes for in Sydney.

    I live in Maine where few small businesses and even fewer homes have that fancy central ac that’s so ubiquitous in the southern states and the midwest. If folks here want air conditioning, which can be a real blessing in our surprisingly humid summers, the buy a window unit (or 2). My mom just bought one for less than $200 that cools her whole apartment. My mom’s income is below poverty level, yet she was able to squirrel away enough to pay for that in only a few months time.

    Many people here who own larger homes will just buy one for their bedroom so they can sleep in comfort, or their den/living room so they can relax in comfort.

    Groovy suddenly finds herself wanting to sit down with Grace and review her finances because where there’s a will, there’s a way – even without selling the beautiful, much loved car.

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  13. I love the idea of raising funds for Grace’s AC. If I had the money I’d send it to you to forward on. I swear to God I would. I have a good feeling. I think things are going to work out for Grace and her beloved time capsule.

    Oh, and, I’ll be humming that song for the rest of the night – and envisioning Tom Jones in bell bottoms, hairy chest fully exposed, hips gyrating, belting out at the top of his lungs. Oh great, What’s New Pussycat just started going through my head. It’ll be DAYS before I’ll be able to put that one to rest!

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  14. Poor thing. Aging is so hard. I hope she gets to keep it but you know I’m sure she’s got other memories with Aldo — to cherish… 🙂

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  15. Knowing now what it is like to be without air conditioning in exhausting heat I think Grace should sell the car. Aldo would want her to I am sure.Loss of it will hurt in the beginning but afterwards she can remember in comfort.

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  16. Yes, a beautiful, poignant story, but I felt not only compasion for the widow, but anger. She is so wrapped up in her past life and its joys that she is incapable of living in the “now”. She is not only depriving herself of an air conditioner her husband would no doubt provide were he living, but she is depriving someone else the joy of owning a vehicle he would treasure for as long as he lived. I see her as a very foolish person. Cherished memories lie in the head: they do not need some tangible object to bring them to mind.

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  17. I agree Mary. Lovely story, Selma, but she should sell. The memories will never go, but a car just sitting will certianly fall apart. Just a thing.

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  18. I just wanted to let you all know that one of my neighbours – who is a great mover and shaker – has organised the purchase of an air conditioner for Grace, so she can keep her beloved car. A local journalist is going to do a story on Grace based on this post. Apparently, Aldo was quite famous in the 1970s for saving the local wetlands and many people remember him driving around in his car. It is amazing to me how alive the community spirit can be at times. I feel cheered by it!

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  19. TBALL – she doesn’t have to sell. She doesn’t have to sell!

    ANTHONY – I do think Aldo would have wanted her to sell the car. But now she doesn’t have to. YAY!

    GROOVY – window units and those outdoor AC units need government approval in our local area due to a change in noise pollution laws so the only option is the expensive one unless you want to go through a lengthy (and expensive) approval process. I am glad Grace doesn’t have to now!

    EPIPHANY – it is a great song. Thanks for your kind thought. I know you would help if you could. However, there is no need now. My Mum loves Tom Jones too. She saw him in concert in the ’60s and was so overcome she took off her bra and threw it on the stage. My conservative, quiet Mum! She told me he was ‘sex on legs.’ Even now I still giggle about it!

    NAT – I’m glad she can keep it. God knows, life is hard enough without having to give up something so dear.

    DIAMONDS – I can imagine the heat is oppressive where you are living now. I’ve heard the humidity is quite bad. I hope you get the chance to get some AC yourself.

    MARY – I know. Sometimes it’s not very pragmatic to cling to sentiment but at least now she can hold onto her memories and be cool at the same time!

    LAURI – that car is in perfect nick. Showroom condition. I can see both sides but I am glad she doesn’t have to sell.

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  20. Hi Selma,
    What a fantastic outcome, one generated by your story, congratulations!
    A sense of community, driven by concern and care for others, is a wonderful balm to the pain caused by the stresses of today’s world.

    Just think, if every single human being on the planet carried out just one random act of kindness per week that would be roughly 348.4 billion R.A.K.’s per year. That might be enough to make a difference!

    Personally, I don’t think that a global sense of community would be such a bad thing, we don’t have to be clones of each other, it is more a matter of appreciating and respecting each other’s differences……and caring. A village mentality might help to get us out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

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  21. CHRIS – it is an incredible outcome, isn’t it? It proves to me that people really do care. I feel more hopeful than I have in ages because of this and I know all my neighbours do too. A random act of kindness has effects that spread out in waves. You are right, the effect world wide of just one act of kindness per person per day would be staggering. I’m going to give it a try. I am so glad you stopped by. You have inspired me too!

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  22. Hi Selma,
    I accessed your site courtesy of A.N.’s blogroll. If Anthony considers your site worthy of mention, then I’m certainly not going to argue!
    In relation to the R.A.K.’s I was trying not to be too greedy, I was only hoping for 1 per person per week, I thought that daily might be too much of an ask 🙂

    By the way I’m an Aussie too (based in Adelaide) and I will certainly be back!

    Hope that you have a wonderful weekend, you deserve it!

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  23. Well done, you!!

    Certainly demonstrates the power of the blog.

    I was going to ask if some sort of equity release scheme was possible … you know, buyer buys the AC unit; in return gets access to the car until Grace goes,(Grace retains possession) then inherits it.

    Elderly people over here sometimes do that with their houses; I wonder if doing it with a car would have been a ‘first’?

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  24. CHRIS – great to meet another Aussie blogger. And any friend of Anthony’s is definitely welcome here. So nice to meet you!

    TRAVELRAT – that is a great idea. It just shows you that there is always a way round things!

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