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