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A newfound nostalgia

Katie Perry | Tuesday, February 15, 2005

In a navy blue Volvo station wagon evolved a scrapbook of my entire childhood. Inside, memories rested alongside the hardened French fries and squashed fruit snacks that lined the plastic leather interior.

Growing up I had two older brothers. Brian was two years my senior, and we flat out did not get along. At the root of our constant fighting were our intrinsic similarities – we repelled each other like two homologous poles. Michael, two years older than Brian, had an incredible knack for aloofness. He was always a spectator during our petty battles, never taking sides or responding to the action. I often pondered how it was possible for him to ignore Brian’s and my constant quarreling. In time I realized this trait was simply part of who Mike was, and we all loved him for it.

During family car trips we’d find ourselves playing our Gameboy consoles for 10 minutes before breaking into complete sibling warfare. My father would try to overwhelm the cacophony with his newest Bruce Springsteen cassette, but his attempts were always futile.

Through the constant combat, my parents’ personalities shined through. My mother’s solution to all sibling-related problems involved an extraordinary amount of yelling. My father wasn’t as vocal. Once the Boss had failed him, he’d opt to jerk the car to the side of the road and cooly stand outside until the battle ceased. This technique usually worked. Brian would direct his negative anger at his game of Tetris, Michael would lose himself in his Walkman, and I would stare out the window and daydream. The car changed with the family, and as we acquired parts, so did it. When the Volvo approached its second birthday, my sister Erica was born. The meager five-seater could no longer hold our family and a fold-up trunk seat was added as a result.

The years passed, and like us, the Volvo began to age. The navy paint lost its luster and small regions of rust developed. Inside, empty juice boxes and X-Men trading cards lay preserved beneath the floor mats, creating an unintentional scrapbook of memories shared by my family in the car.

One subzero February day our car began its dissent to death. As we pulled out of our driveway something felt awry. The Volvo was making strange noises – it had finally trekked its last mile.

A short time later, we purchased a spacious new Honda minivan. No longer crammed in the backseat, arguments between Brian and I dissipated and finally ceased. We pretended to love the new found maturity, yet in our hearts we all wanted to go back to the days of pulling hair and bickering to no end.

The Volvo represented our youth, and when it died, our childhood went along with it. From gummy bears and Gameboys had somehow evolved four children who had just about grown up. Now as I juggle papers, exams and of course, late nights at The Observer, I think I’d give anything to relive those days. Yet I know it is an unreachable desire. Childhood is a one-way street, and there is no turning back.