My first car was a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. It was black with loads and loads of chrome. A beautiful car. We bought it from our neighbor lady, Ethel Kohler. Mrs. Kohler kept it in her garage, and she didn’t drive it often. At all. Whenever she used it, she would then immediately return it to that small yellow garage, with the push-open doors, and she’d wipe it down with a chamois. It had its very own VW cover, and she nestled it in for its nap every time. Ethel’s husband, Alfred, had died years before. Alfred and Ethel. Tooling around town in their little VW. They were a very sweet couple. When I was rumbling through my childhood, during the summer months, I would make my various daily stops at certain neighbor’s houses. My goal was to attain snacks, mostly in the form of cookies. The Rooney Sisters were always good for soft, homemade, oatmeal cookies. Al and Ethel frequently had store-bought varieties, including Oreos and those pink rectangular waffle cookies with the cream filling in-between.
I quit visiting those neighbors in my older years. But when the prospect of purchasing Mrs. Kohler’s car presented itself, I walked across the street with my Dad, and we sat at her kitchen table, hashing out the details. They drank black coffee. I had a little green bottle of Coca-Cola. I was about 14 years old. This was not going to be “my” car, by any means. But I promised her I would take very good care of her Bug, and keep it clean, and polish its nice chrome fittings.
As it turned out, Ethel Kohler died before I turned 16. I don’t remember how she passed, but I do remember being sad. My parents too. And then, there was the matter of her car, which my Dad had purchased after that kitchen meeting. We kept it in another neighbor’s garage. Ms. Eleanor Keyes’ garage. She lived directly across the street. She had a Bat-Cave garage, as she lived on a hill and the garage was nestled directly beneath her house.
As it also turns out, I learned to drive a standard transmission on that Black VW, with my father in the co-pilot chair, on the hills near DeWeese Parkway. From there, it morphed into my car. And I made good on my promise to care for it. Not as well as Ethel did, I admit. But I frequently washed it and I never let my friends leave any trash inside. It was always spit-spot. But that is to be assumed, for I have been OCD from a very early start.
It met its demise the summer after my senior year in high school. I was sitting at a four-way stop, on Parkwood Avenue, waiting to turn left. A drunk man on a motorcycle hit me head on, as I sat at that stop sign. He and his bike went flying, and by some miracle, the only damage was a broken turn signal light on his bike. Our 1969 Volkswagen, on the other hand, was deemed “totaled.” It was towed away from that spot and I never saw her again.
All of this, I write, because of the recent announcement by Volkswagen, that they will no longer be manufacturing the Beetle. In the year’s since my first Bug, I’ve always had a fond memory of that car. In fact, I’ve thought about buying an old classic, from time to time.
But now, somehow, my heart aches that they won’t be making Beetles any longer. There was so incredibly much to that car’s warm story. And now, somehow, it seems, forever gone.
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
― Frank Herbert
“The problem with books is that they end.”
― Caroline Kepnes, You
“I could’ve sworn I was telling the truth when I told you I didn’t miss you.”
― pleasefindthis, I Wrote This For You