It was early spring 1980 and we were doing about 75-80 miles on small winding country roads in and around the Cornwalls of Connecticut. Jill was at the wheel of her Little Orange, I was in the passenger seat—and she was taking me around to get acquainted with people and places of import and interest to her. I’d entered her life earlier that year in what we both understood was a life-changing fashion. The intensity of our intellectual passions, not to mention the more ‘base’ passions, clearly found some release in our numerous trips at breakneck speed. Little Orange was an MGb—a well-designed smart looking sports car but quite costly in its upkeep; and with mileage nearing 200,000 I kind of imagined future problems.
After a lengthy period of courtship, and having almost convinced me she was moving to the UK, Jill sold her house in West Cornwall and moved into my apartment on West 14th Street in New York City, bringing with her Little Orange and, as she used to say, her dowry—a check from the sale of her house. I invested her money at an unheard of rate of 18% per annum and gave her an allowance each week! Now began months of getting to know each other in earnest, of adjusting our needs and desires to each other—and moving Little Orange from one curb to the opposite on alternate parking days. Agreements were made twice a week as to who would deal with the car—and then I’d wander off to work at Perry Street Theater and Jill sat down at her desk to continue working on what became Mother Bound.
Fall of 1981 we were driving up to West Cornwall, CT to visit with Lynn and Jamie when somewhere on Route 7 very ominous sounds emerged from Little Orange, and within minutes she simply stopped moving. I was driving and Jill immediately said ‘pistons’ ‘the engine has blown’ and I felt terribly responsible. Although I had checked oil and all other fluids before leaving the city, apparently I had not noticed that oil had begun sputtering as we drove along. We got hold of Lynn who picked us up and arranged for LO to be towed to Percy’s Garage in West Cornwall. And it was also Lynn who immediately knew of a good used car for sale over in Goshen. So we were not without wheels for more than a few weeks. Jill just wanted to junk LO but Lynn and I thought it would be worth trying to rebuild the engine. For the next several weekends she and I became grease monkeys at Percy’s. The replacement car we bought, we figured would maybe last us a year or so. We paid $1,000 for it and baptized it Old Blue—it had plenty of mileage and yet we managed to ease it along for 7 years during which we drove to Chicago twice, with some breakdowns, to Swan’s Island in Maine, and every weekend when not abroad on research trips, we drove to Kingston to be with Winnie and our grandchildren.
We often took Amanda and Ben to a reservoir nearby to bike, run and play ball. And on the drive back Jill always entertained us with camp songs and we all four would sing, “You Are My Sunshine”—Jill singing in a clear beautiful voice. Little Orange was never again the same—several interesting looking parts were left after we assumed our rebuilding was done! Although it sort of stated, it didn’t sound healthy! And at some point, Jill sold it for $1,500 to a guy who was collecting MGs!
After 7 years with Old Blue, we decided the upkeep was out of sight and resolved to buy a new car. I was used to window-shopping rather lengthily when it came to BIG ITEMS. When we drove to Torrington Honda in Connecticut, I had already checked out the various models via a NYC Honda dealer and felt I came well prepared; not ready exactly to buy but ready to check out what was available. Before I had had time to even blink, Jill bought a 1988 Honda Civic 4-door sedan, blue with about 4,000 miles on it—and this car became Little Blue, which we kept and nurtured till spring 2008 when I discovered numerous holes in the floor under the driver’s seat. It took us on lots of trips to North and South Carolina, to places all over the USA where Gillett & Johnston carillons were to be found, to Canada twice, and as always to Winnie and our grandchildren as they moved from Kingston to Tuxedo and then on to Tomkins Cove.
By early winter 2008, we had bought New Blue, a 2004 Honda Civic 4-door sedan in the same speedy and unblinking way Jill had previously bought Little Blue as well as our co-op apartment on Charles Street, and the condo apartment in 2007 in Sharon, CT. We needed a good car to get around in our new abode environment of the Northwestern corner of Connecticut, especially during what turned out to be horrible winter months. I pulled out the passenger seat and placed boxes covered with blanket to support Jill’s legs, especially the left one which had gradually been causing her endless pain and trouble walking since 1996.
A few days ago, it dawned on me that Jill’s faster-than-the-speed-of-light method of buying BIG ITEMS was her way of balancing out her creative labor of writing. She could sit for hours formulating sentences in her head before actually keying them on the computer. Still, every time she pulled this fast kind of purchase, my heart was in my throat. And now I miss this decisive approach so desperately.
On June 24, 2011 at 13:41:50 o’clock, New Blue became my car—after jumping through a multitude of hoops and obstacles viz. loan and owner-transfer. When I walked out of the DMV satellite office in Winsted with the new registration papers, I burst into tears, and sat wailing in ‘my’ car for a good hour. I haven’t owned a car by myself since my white Triumph back in my days at the University of Copenhagen circa mid- to late-60s. And truthfully I can’t say I like it one bit!
Copyright 2011 by Ingrid Nyeboe