I suppose it might have been a bit more apropos had I been riding in the backseat of a Greyhound bus when I saw it. But the truth is, I was sitting in the front seat of my 2012 Toyota Corolla on my way home from work.
I was driving over a hill near my home; one that I had ridden over countless times before and there it was, sitting majestically in the late afternoon sun: A rusted out 1964 AMC Rambler.
Now, you’d be hard pressed to find me discussing anything other than a Mustang when it comes to classic cars. I grew up with the pony car. My father, brother, cousins and uncles all owned them, and every Wood from the South Side of Easton to the outskirts of Palmer Township drove them up and down the strip from the late 70’s right to this very day.
But for some reason, seeing the beat up old Rambler sitting on the side of the road brought back the ultimate memory for me. For you see, not only is a Rambler the very first car I ever remember my family owning, it’s also one of my earliest childhood memories.
It was a beat up machine, much like the one that now sat idle on the hillside near my home. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of transmission it had or any of the optional equipment. All I knew was, it was green and a daily driver for my grandfather in the early 1970’s. From the very first day I had memories of my own, I remember him pulling it up along side the house, beeping the horn and asking me to go for a ride with him to the hardware store across town.
As a five-year old boy, the chance to ride shot-gun with your grandfather is an opportunity not to be missed. It was equivalent to the feeling of getting a new toy for Christmas. Time spent together was priceless, and I immediately dropped whatever it was I was doing at the time and hopped in.
I recall the front seat of the car was well-worn and had holes in it. To help keep the springs from coming up and poking us, my grandmother covered the seating area with one of her many summer dresses. I wasn’t the least bit worried that the pattern of the dress didn’t match the rest of the interior. All I cared about was the drive with my grandfather.
That car meant a lot to everyone. So much so that when my grandfather suffered a stroke and could no longer keep it, it was given to my Aunt and Uncle who lived next door. They had three children of their own and over the next several years the Rambler became the car each of them learned how to drive with. As I got older, I began to think of it as an heirloom; a car that would be passed down among all the children and would eventually wind up in my possession.
As it came closer to becoming my turn to take ownership of the green Rambler, the unthinkable happened. My cousin (who was the current owner of the Rambler) broke tradition and instead of passing it down, decided to sell the car instead. The last I ever saw of the little green Rambler was the day the new owner drove away in it. Although I would eventually learn how to drive in my cousin’s 1986 Dodge Colt; a car that was much easier to learn in than one 22 years its senior, it still wasn’t the Rambler.
Much like how the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and Santa Claus all became distant memories for me over time as I got older, so too did the little green Rambler. That was until today. If only for an instant, I was five again and it was wonderful.
As I drove off into the twilight and looked back at the Rambler, now fading into the distance, a smile came across my face. I thought how funny it was that an inanimate object could make me think of some of the best times of my life.
And what I wouldn’t give right now to take another ride with my grandfather in the Rambler.