Friday, December 03, 2010

“Christmas Chevette”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

A few weeks ago, I closed out the family storage space in Montville. This meant that for the first time in several years, many hidden household treasures were once again within reach. Lots of memories were revived in the process.

As I finished the task of loading these items for the journey home, a lone scrap of paper appeared on the concrete floor of my cubicle. It turned out to be a receipt from Fisher’s Big Wheel in Chardon, dated 1984.

This echo of bygone days made me smile.

Later, with the holiday season approaching, I rummaged through my relocated stash. Before long, I found an old Maple Leaf column based on Christmas memories from that erstwhile retailer. It was a personal story that continued to endure, even in the 21st Century:

“The Christmas rush of 1984 was relentless. I had lived in the village (Chardon) for one full year, after sixty-four months in New York… It was difficult to guess where my life was headed. But I had much enthusiasm for tomorrow! When my VW Beetle finally expired, travel to work depended on a dull Chevrolet Chevette. (Truly an awful winter vehicle!) Fortunately, employment was not far away. I spent gainful hours at the local Fisher’s Big Wheel. Service to this Newcastle, Pennsylvania retailer began a path toward greater things…Christmas Eve brought my own chance to procure holiday gifts. As final moments of anticipation ticked away, I carried a red shopping basket around the store. It was a ritual that brought comfort, and peace. My paycheck (for two weeks) evaporated quickly. But focus on the joyous duty whisked away cares from the year…”

After reading the article, I pondered having mentioned my Chevette in the holiday feature. It seemed undeniably strange, yet somehow appropriate.

I remembered that on Christmas Day of 1986, the vehicle’s starter expired during a family visit. With this exchange of gifts complete, I was left to mutter about the looming cost of repair. Happily, I was able to coast downhill to my home in Munson Township. A final push got the car safely out of traffic.

The reflective mood evoked by this story made me slump lazily in my chair. Soon, I had fallen asleep at the desk. A pleasant rush of holiday images followed. Elves and gingerbread people were dancing around a tree brought by Paula Horbay. Snow blanketed the Chardon Square. Festive lights twinkled from the county courthouse. Luscious aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg filled the air.

And then, a seasonal tune began to reverberate from the great beyond…

Christmas Chevette

See the USA
In your Chevrolet
That’s what commercials say
But when you’re poor
This is what you get
A second-hand Chevette

Yuletide grins
And icy spins
Make the holidays begin
But when you’re broke
Better place your bet
On a second-hand Chevette

Santa’s sleigh
Ain’t a Chevrolet
He can fly both night and day
So I’ll pretend
I’ve got a jet
Not a second-hand Chevette

Chestnuts roast
A holiday toast
To those we love the most
Then the dream is done
‘Cause don’t forget
We’ve got a second-hand Chevette

A Christmas tree
A shopping spree
Wish your neighbors peace
But a rough ride home
Is what you get
In a second-hand Chevette

Sleigh bells ring
And carolers sing
Of what St. Nick will bring
But a lump of coal
Is what you expect
With a second-hand Chevette

A flannel cap
In Christmas wrap
Patterned from a treasure map
Gifts on the cheap
But don’t you fret
With a second-hand Chevette

Friends and fun
This day is done
The Yuletide hymn is sung
Now it’s back to work
For a weekly check
In your second-hand Chevette

When I woke up, the computer had slipped into standby mode. Vintage holiday music crackled from a radio in the living room. And nightfall was at hand.

I yawned out loud. Lying on the desk was a photo of my budget Chevrolet from yesteryear. The car had originally come from Hal Artz Pontiac, on Water Street. Though it impressed no one, the vehicle was perfect for late-night excursions with friends from work. The Chevette was all but invisible compared to sporty coupes and 4x4 off-road warriors. It afforded us safe travel with incredible fuel efficiency.

Eventually, my thrifty carriage had fallen apart, with 77,000 miles on the odometer. I last used it as a backyard storage shed for dog food. But until then, it was a faithful servant.

This tiny automobile did nothing for my social standing, but saved lots of money for the household budget.

I was glad to recall our time together.

The day ended with twin themes echoing in my head – holiday cheer and love for this four-cylinder mule. Magic sparkled from the computer screen as I finished writing.

Now, it was time for bed!

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