by Lisa

I often dream of cars and truck and bicycles and mopeds.  This morning, I spent time in my sleeping mind with a station wagon.

Vehicles do occupy my waking thoughts more than I think you might think.  My first boyfriend, whose name I sometimes struggle to remember, made a game of naming the make and model of other cars on the road.  In the beginning of our year together, he always won.  By the end, I had learned enough to hold my own.  The game had one rule: blurt out the kind of car before the other person did.  No prize, no glory except in being right.  We both liked to be right, at eighteen.

He was pompous about cars but didn’t own one.  His dad was a gear head with several projects in the garage, but nothing drivable.  His mother’s regular ride was a rust bucket once-yellow Gran Torino with a top speed of 160.  She often lost paychecks to pay off speeding tickets earned on the way to work.  I had never met a family so passionate about cars but so car-poor.  I think the boyfriend played the name-game because of that.  He wanted something, anything, of his own to drive, and I never let him drive my Blazer.  He would have done something stupid and ratted out my transmission.  Boys loved my Blazer, but did not respect the four-wheel-drive.  My dear truck had had a full life as the work vehicle for a game warden and knew how to handle off-road conditions, but that didn’t mean that a testosterone-fueled fool could get behind the wheel on my watch.  That boyfriend’s insistence on driving my truck to senior prom was the beginning of our end.  I drove and his friends shamed him, but the Blazer was good to me for ten more years. I still miss it.  It was red with white panels.

My own family, the one who raised me, had one car and one car only, which was my mother’s.  It was usually red.  I still think red is a perfect color for a car.  She’s had others since the red ’78 Firebird in which I learned to drive, but none of them seemed like they would stick.  Her current car is red, a relief.  Maybe she’ll keep this one.  Changing vehicles stresses me out, even if it’s just my mom doing the shopping. My other family, the one who raised my father, had beautiful and interesting things to drive, as well as projects in garages.  My uncle always had some bizarre new thing in the shop.  My cousin collects Jeeps, weird ones, but has a passion for the Ford Taurus station wagon, pre-1996.  Another cousin works on airplanes, but loves his Ford station wagons, too.

This morning, I dreamed of a station wagon.  No one seems to respect the wagon.  Driving a station wagon has earned no one any cool points.  Ever.  The station wagon in my dream had a rumble seat, which was cool, and a flip-out tailgate table, which was cooler.  Ford Taurus wagons have both.  The coolest thing about the dream wagon, though, was its location and the things attached to it and the things that had ridden in it.

The passengers–five of us, and a dog and a cat, with one other cat curled up grumpily in the rumble seat–were sitting at the rest stop at the top of the world, on Donner Pass off of highway 80.  In my dream, we’d come from where I am now and we were all comfortable and not at all the grouchy, road-weary beasts one usually sees at rest stops.  The luggage pod on top had rainbow flames on it.  The wagon was darker, forest green like the pines all around us. It blended in to the backdrop of Ponderosas except for those flames on top. We were on our way to northern California and decided to have a picnic by the little lake. I remember stopping there in real life, once, on my way to San Francisco, but we did not have a station wagon or a picnic.  We just all needed to get away from each other for five minutes after nearly losing our minds on the salt flats. Trees needed hugging, for sanity’s sake, for the smell of something other than ancient dead fish.

Dreams of traveling are often better than real traveling, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

I could see this station wagon from our blanket.  The best part of the dream wasn’t the car, but the fact that I’d pieced together this machine that could transport some people I love in comfort from one end of the country to the other.   Well, I did appreciate the paint job on the luggage carrier.   A white window confused me until I remembered that  the smallest person in the entourage had a seat there, and a fondness for stickers.  The rear windows had curtains, for naps with the dog, and shade for the dog.  We had bicycles on a little trailer, and tents that I knew were tents but looked more like something made for Bedouin shepherds than backpackers.  The whole outfit, station wagon, roof rack, trailer, all of it, was a beautiful thing to me.  An accomplishment.  An assemblage of mismatched things made whole, and eager to move or stay put indefinitely.

My Jeep-collecting, station-wagon-driving cousin once took classes on dream translation, and worked a dream hotline.  He tells me that any vehicle, in universal dreamspeak, indicates healing.  I dream of strange thought-powered bikes and fixing engine troubles with just a stick, and strapping essential things to the outside of the car I have now because not everything I want to carry fits in the sedan-sized trunk.  I don’t know if his translation of my vehicle dreams is true.  He could be shoving me along a good path, out of kindness.

I already own that luggage pod, but I don’t have a roof rack upon which to bolt it.  It’s battered from disuse, and I think it’ll be happy with a new paint job.