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Third House Things: Moving On

by April Elliott Kent In early 2003 we bought a “new” car – a three year old Corolla.  Our other vehicles – a funky pickup truck and my dilapidated 1986 Corolla – were no longer serviceable for out of town junkets, so we reluctantly parted with enough cash to make a serious dent in our cash flow position and bought something a little more up-to-date.  It was a move we’d put off for years, not only out of frugality but also a weird sense of loyalty to my little coupe.  And while the new car wasn’t, technically speaking, a replacement for the old one, it did spell the end of the venerable old coupe’s heyday on the open highway.  For the past few years, it’s had trouble even passing its smog tests. But I still can’t bear to part with the car that’s been with me for more than half my life, so for now it will sit patiently in the driveway, ready to go on those days I need to touch base with the old April, V1.1985.

I bought it – my one and only brand new car, a spanking new, sporty Corolla SR5 coupe in battleship gray – on October 20, 1985.  (Yes: I drive a Libra, and I married one.  Talk about brand loyalty.)  Savvy consumer that I was at age 24, one day I wandered onto a lot and bought the first car I looked at, the first car I took for a test drive.  I paid full price, because I was an idiot.  My older sister, who came along for the ride as the ostensible voice of reason, let me get away with it because she had just met and fallen mind-emptyingly in love with the man she would marry seven months later.  But the lunacy of our car shopping expedition notwithstanding, that car has been a good friend to me for 26 years, and I’ve never regretted my impulsive decision to buy it.

That car is a fully functional ethnographic account of nearly half my life so far.  It’s been with me through eleven addresses, numerous bad relationships, a handful of jobs, my entire career as an astrologer, my wedding day, and several important deaths in the family.  When I bought it, Ronald Reagan was in office, the Dow Jones Industrial average was hovering at around 1300,  the median price of a home in California was $127,000, “Back to the Future” was the top grossing film in the country, “We are the World” was cluttering the radio waves, and The Cosby Show dominated prime time television.  I used to take my four year old godson for rides, strapped snugly into the bucket passenger seat; today he is a grown man, and the last time he rode in that little car with me he was pretty cramped.  The guy my sister was mooning over the day I bought the car?  She’s been married to him for 26 years, and they have two beautiful sons, ages 23 and 19.

I began my relationship with my new car – which, as I share it with Jonny, will never be truly mine in the way my old car is  — with the New Moon and Uranus in my third house, the house that rules cars, among other things.  Mobility. Our means of navigating our world, the skills and tools that facilitate movement, communication, and learning. It describes our immediate landscape: The people, places, and familiar objects that populate our daily lives, the things we learn from them, the process of emotional shorthand that translates them into talismans, touchstones to who and where we’ve been along the way.

I’ve lost many of the people that tethered me to that younger, thinner, cuter, but ultimately clueless version of myself.  I’m not in so much of a hurry to let go of the ones who are left, and the familiar objects that bind me to that time.  My mother isn’t here to listen calmly to my emotional rantings (although my husband, bless him, does a stellar job of pinch-hitting), but I’ve been known to spin a 78 on her old Victrola record player when I want to feel close to her.  My aunt isn’t here to give sage advice about the moments when I’m extending my reach and trying to be more than I thought I could be; but her piano sits near our front door and is the first thing I see when I walk into the house at the end of the day, a mute reminder that practice makes – well, if not perfect, at least perfectly competent.

And I’m one brother short of the set I was born with. Today would have been Kirk’s 57th birthday. He died almost 16 years ago, and I miss his sardonic wit; he was a damn funny, creatively funny guy.  We were kindred spirits who wound up in the same family, but he was not the kind of guy you sat down and had a heart to heart talk with – he was the kind of guy you traded quips with.  Physically, he was a large presence, a man of great appetites; but I never think of him as physical, because what connected us was sharing the same air, just moving breath around in an effort to entertain each other.  But of course, that’s the job of the physical: Our bodies are a big bore a lot of the time, but they’re good cars for our spirits, words, and ideas.

Anyway, I’m not terribly sad that all I have of my brother’s physical possessions are a few old papers that were in my mother’s keepsake trunk when she died, since what I miss is the way he moved the air around, and no one’s found a way to hold onto that once the spirit’s own automobile has moved on to that great demolition yard in the sky.  But I do owe a great deal to him for any wit I possess, because I honed it against his blade.   And I do, of course, still have my trusty old car — the one I bought on his 31st birthday — and in a funny way it makes me think of him, getting in that car and driving, moving the air around.  Cars and brothers – both third house things.  Come to think of it, so is moving on.

© April Elliott Kent
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9 comments to " Third House Things: Moving On "

  • sandy Turner

    What a wonderful way to remember your brother. You made him come alive for a few minutes to your readers. Sweet and blessed memories.

  • I haven’t checked out the 3rd house in the light you’ve described, but I’m going to the graveside service of my brother’s ‘vehicle’ tomorrow. (He was murdered last Saturday.) Another brother died of AIDS in ’92. There’s just something in your perspective that gives me comfort and uplifts my spirit to meet this moment in a future time when I’ll be able to articulate the context of events as beautifully as you have. Thank you.

  • helen

    Oh April ~Cars and brothers!! how parallel! me too!
    Me & my bro used to joke about me meditating and all that woowoo stuff.. quips there too ~ when calling the Other Side – answer at a seance “i’m sorry, your dead Aunt Liz can’t come to the phone right now.” And now that he’s on the Other Side, i get stuff like (in the kitchen before Xmas) – “so are you making that dish?” nooooo.. it’s only me, and besides, you’re dead, you can’t eat it anyway!. (he always did sort for food).
    And yes, the 18 year love affair with my Dodge Shadow – when it wore out, got another one, that one got crashed by psycho at red light, so got another one.. yes, a 1989! with turbo, white, looks exactly like the one i almost got in ’87!… some love affairs are forever.. and no, your family never really leaves you, i agree! 🙂

  • pdw

    Yes, cheers to fun brothers!

  • Ashley

    beautiful. tonorrows lunar eclipse is in my third house, thank you for this. my husband is going to sign papers on a new car in the morning! You’re right on!

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