As a young boy, I too was obsessed with anything with wheels. My brother and I had a vast collection of Matchbox and Hotwheels cars, Micro-machines, Tonka…you name it, we had it. The floors of my parent’s house would often be covered in such trappings much the same as mine are now when The Narrator dumps his car collection out to play.
The Narrator has an interesting collection in his ‘car bin.’ Mixed in among the dozens of brand new and shiny ones that have been gifted to him on many occasions, are some old and worn out ones that used to belong to my brother or I when we were kids. When we would go visit my parents, he would paw through our old toys, and latch onto one or two of them. They would inevitably make their way into his backpack for the trip home, and end up as part of his collection now.
That is the story of 99% of the cars he has. Either purchased for him new, or added to his collection from ours when we visited my parents home.
There is one car there though, whose addition to his collection is a little different. It had been mine as a boy, so long ago that I don’t remember where or from whom it came. I remember playing with it before the paint became chipped, and while the wheels still spun freely.
Its a bit worse for wear now, and looks like what I imagine a billion other die-cast matchbox cars from other 80’s kids like me looks like. But this one has a bit more of a history.
After I stopped playing with them regularly, my cars made their way into a bin and were stored in the closet of my old bedroom, to be forgotten about until my son came along. They were played with when we made our periodic visits, but largely, they spent their time in that closet.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene dumped ungodly amounts of rain on my home town and did irreparable damage to dozens if not hundreds of homes. Among those homes was my parent’s. The flood waters raced up and tore a chunk of land out of their property…..and it happened to be the exact chunk of land that the house sat on. In a matter of hours, the house was dismantled to component lumber and scattered with all of its contents over two miles of river. After the flood, we spent nearly a week searching through the mud and silt for whatever artifacts from the past we could salvage. Three days into the search for possessions, amid twisted lumber, broken windows, shredded clothing, and unrecognizable bits of yesterday, I spied a sliver of white paint sticking out of the mud. It didn’t take much digging to unearth the above-pictured corvette. I dunked the filthy toy into the still-rushing creek to clear off some of the silt and inspected the damage. Aside from more of the paint having been flecked away, and some remaining silt stuck in the wheel wells, she was in pretty good shape. I stuck it in my pocket and brought it home. After a solid cleaning I was surprised to find that the wheels all still spun pretty well, and I gave it over to my son to add to his collection.
I like to think that there was some sort of “Toy Story-esque” reunion between this car that survived the catastrophic flood, and all of the other old ones that my son appropriated on his own whenever we came to visit. After being dumped from its bucket and thrown into the remnants of a demolished home, and carried a quarter of a mile downstream by the river, it managed to settle into a bank of mud and waited to be found.
Whenever The Narrator dumps his cars out to play with them, I always seek out the little white corvette with my eyes. If she’s upside down, I turn it over. If he happens not to be playing with it at the time, I’ll pick it up and drive it around myself for a while. I can’t help but think that she sort of deserves an extra bit of attention, being one of the very few survivors of that day, and the only one of all of our cars, trucks, planes, trains and such that wasn’t completely lost to the river bank forever.