The procession had just returned from the cemetery. We buried another uncle – an act repeated eight times over the years from the early 70’s through the early 00’s. Me and four cousins, all very large young men now (seriously – all hovering just under or just over 6 feet and minimally 200 pounds, well over 1,000 pounds of beef, and that is being courteous) stood in the funeral home parking lot. They wondered how do we get from here to Aunt Fil’s (my mom’s), for the after-funeral gathering? The limos had departed – no one had thought this far in advance to leave a car here to transport us.
Except me. Sitting in the parking lot was Bee. My 1973 MGB. I looked at her from across the lot and she looked back, nodded her head, and called out – “Yeah, sure. Bring it on.”
So just how do you fit five very large men, all in black suits, white shirts and black ties, into an MGB? First thing – top up. Slide seats forward. Cram two, yes two, into the space behind the seats. Then slide the seats back, stopping only when the flesh and bones in the back could bend no more. Plop one person in the front seat, and one on his lap. Driver – all 6 foot 4 inch, 200 pounds of me, stuffed behind the wheel with that seat pushed forward enough to have my knees touch my chin.
The three or four mile drive to the house, through the unforgiving potholed and hilly streets of Ossining, New York, was something to behold. Sparks occasionally flying out the back of Bee when she scraped bottom. Radio cranked up. Five “grown men” (well, at least age-wise – ranging from late 20s to early 30s) emotionally ricocheting from hysterical laughing to unashamed crying. Somewhere our departed uncles shook their heads.
Pull up to mom’s. Open the doors and five men-in-black literally pour out, rolling all over the street and lawn. I think I heard Bee exhale deeply. I know I saw her smile when she said, “That one’s for your uncles – all of them. They’re all American car guys but it still took an English lady roadster to get their nephews home to their sister.”
I’ve seen my cousins many times after that scene 30-plus years ago. All too often, it’s at another funeral (we buried 9 aunts too, and countless number of Italian-extended-family members.) That story always comes up, again leading to hysterical laughter or unashamed crying, often right in the middle of a funeral home. Bee is a bond that ties us….I often still take her to the wake, just to spur the memories.
I’ve asked a lot of that car in the 41 years since I drove her out of the showroom. Only once did she let me down (a breakdown in Queens, New York in the wee hours of the morning as I was trying to get back to Ossining, an hour drive away.) It’s a noble record of achievement. But the years, if not my cousins, have been hard on her.
I have started the restoration process so long overdue, keeping her on the road as I progress. Can’t break a 41-year streak now. To paraphrase John Lennon, life keeps happening while I make plans, so it goes slowly. But no matter where we are in this restoration, and hopefully it will be a long-time from now and she will be like new again, there will be one more chore for her. When I draw my last breath, my wife has instructions to “Bury me in the B.” Top down this time. My four cousins, walking along one at each corner of the car, will be called to action again, to provide thrust this time instead of ballast, as honorary pall bearers. Bee will bear all my weight alone.
The laughter will again be hysterical, the tears unashamed. Bee will take me to my uncles and father, those car guys on the far side of the bridge. Meanwhile, back on the near side, all that beef will wave until we are out of sight, then begin wondering how they are going to get home without Bee and me.