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THE VAULT: Archives of Past Features
Josi’s MG
By: Paula Hendricks

The thin blue plastic whips in the wind. Tearing loose from its catch under the rear bumper. Josi’s maroon MG parked on the steeply sloping lawn in West Virginia is exposed to the storm. This car is a classic, 1979 MGB convertible. It is Josi’s legacy to her sister Jayell. It is Jayell’s inheritance. It has been Jayell’s for 4 ½ years, and it hasn’t been driven in quite some time.

Josi’s MG was part of her. A piece of her puzzle. She’d drive up, her frosted curly hair made more messy by the wind. The top was always down. It was always open to the wind. So as the blue plastic whipped away from the car and the rain spilled into the open seats, I saw Josi, driving away, her hair blowing, her hand waving high, her smile large. And I also remember she died before any of us was ready.

Josi’s love affair with this MG has made this car a special legacy. It was a key ingredient in Josi’s persona, that image she worked at presenting to the rest of the world. Her sister is different. Where Josi was outgoing and even outrageous with her wild frizzed hair and rings on virtually all her fingers and toes and nails so long I didn’t think she could do physical work (but she could,) her sister Jayell is serene and thoughtful. Josi would rush into a room and talk, Jayell listens first. Josi never put the top on that MG and drove it every day in Tucson. Jayell avoids the sun.

“I was surprised at my emotions when it was brought back to Josi’s house after her death,” said Jayell. “She chose the MG to be her only companion when she kept her appointment with death in the Rincon Mountains of Arizona. John [Josi’s husband] could not bear to keep the MG. None of [her] children could keep it either. It would be hard to see the car and not see Josi if it were sold in Tucson, so the MG was allowed to go to West Virginia with me. And I can’t let the car go. The car meant a lot to Josi. She wouldn’t let anyone else drive it. And she wouldn’t put the top on. Now, it’s a meeting place between Josi and me. Josi and that car were almost of one spirit. It’s a way to bring Josi back with one tangibly.”

Josi had the MG for only 3 years, but she had always wanted one. “When we were school age one of our neighbors had an MG and we were all taken with it,” said Jayell. “But for Josi it was a long and strong connection as she worked at trying to arrive at a certain image and I think she got there. She wanted to be perceived as one who cares, but she also created a shock factor with her appearance, her looks, the car.” It was sad because she was someone who could give and give and give, but with the shock factor, so many doors were closed that she needed to be open.

“The car was part of that shock factor. It was almost as if if you can accept me when you see this, it will probably work.” She would force a decision to be made about her early on.

Josi was a care-giver for my mother when my mother was dying. “I really believe your mom and dad weren’t afraid of that [the whole of Josi.] They were able to receive her and what she had to offer without reading anything into it. They were so in need of care and she was so good at that. Normal evaluations didn’t apply. She finally found what she had been looking for, this kind of acceptance, and was always told didn’t exist.”

“She wanted life to be full and going and special every day. Not just sometimes. She used that car as her only means of transportation. It has a snazzy appearance. Under the hood is a simple basic motor and it requires simple upkeep. It’s a little racing car. It’s not high tech. That matches Josi. She definitely had a love affair with that automobile. I think John knew that and he worked on that car to keep it running for her. She looked right in that car. It suited her.”

Personal choices are often quite charged. Possessions and objects can take on exaggerated meaning and bring up deeply held feelings. “Her getting the car damaged the fragile relationship with her brother,” said Jayell. “She asked him for a loan he was going to give it to her, until he found out what kind of car she wanted. Then he refused. It put the relationship on the skids.” And it didn’t stop there. “When he found out I had the car, and that I had paid something for it, he thought I should have given the money to our mother. It went badly . . . another bad turning point.”

Jayell has had the car now for 4 ½ years and she made a personal commitment to herself to deal with it all by the 5 year mark. The 5th anniversary of Josi’s death is next February. The car is now in the shop. She’s getting it ready to be driven. Perhaps she is getting ready to drive it. But, she still says the car doesn’t suit her. Josi was gregarious, outward, flashy. Jayell is more internal, more serene.

“Josi was a warm weather person. I don’t feel suited to it. I’m always shielding myself from the sun,” said Jayell. “I don't think I fit well with that car. It’s not comfortable. A young chick should have it. I’m an old fuddy duddy. I should have a four wheel drive. I feel different when I drive that car. I wish I were younger, spunkier.” But, she is getting it ready to run.

Josi’s maroon 1979 MGB. It’s important. It’s a talisman. It gave her sister a lot of pleasure. “I can’t see myself selling it. The actual cash value just doesn’t provide the measure of its worth. Of course, if any of Josi’s kids wanted the car, it would be theirs.”

Cars. Our things. Possessions that help us define ourselves. Our love affairs. I hope I am remembered and treasured in just such a way as this.

Comments welcome. Email me at ph@ph-webnet.com


Paula Hendricks is a freelance writer/photographer living in Corrales, New Mexico. She owns paula hendricks & associates, a web development firm.

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