This week my brother flies in to help our dad move to Silver Spring, Maryland. And among the things we’ll need to attend to is his beloved 1953 Pontiac. The car is the same model as the one Dad was driving when he met our mother in Dallas. He was in seminary, and she was working at Texas Instruments. And there’s an infamous family photo from that time. Dad had convinced Mom to get behind the wheel of his car for a picture. What could be prettier than this woman in that car, right? Well, he did, technically, take Mom’s picture. But he kept backing up and backing up until he had the entire Pontiac in the frame. And since the car was roughly the size of the Hernando de Soto Bridge, the wide-angle shot reduced his true love to a blurry, smiling bouffant in the driver’s side window.
Did I mention that Dad really, really liked that car? Mom never let him live that photograph down, if always with a good-humored twinkle in her eye.
But the reason Dad has a ’53 Pontiac today isn’t because he preserved the original. It’s because a few years ago, a former student of his wanted to tell the story of Dad’s life with Mom in a short film. The conceit was to film him driving the old car in places like Hershey, Pennsylvania and Dallas, Texas and Siloam Springs, Arkansas where their love story played out over 47 years of marriage. There were scenes with the car pulling into old downtowns and church parking lots and some of it was shot from a drone way up in the air. The film never quite made it into final form. But Dad got the old car out of the project, and we got a lot of lovely and moving footage of people talking about the impact Mom and Dad had on their lives, especially as they lived with multiple sclerosis together over the years.
The photograph is now a family heirloom, perhaps because it did end up telling an important truth about their relationship. At the time it was taken, Mom was a beautiful, gracious, independent, smart, musical (I could go on…) young woman whom Dad’s friends couldn’t believe had actually agreed to go out with him. But her presence in his life really did grow larger in just about every way from that day on.
It’s funny how perspective changes. The parts of our lives we spend so much time, energy, and imagination forming to make a difference in the world are all gifts from God. But they can obscure the truth that there’s a beautiful essence to each of us that can only be uncovered or observed, never performed or achieved. That tiny, barely discernible but perfectly quaffed woman in the Pontiac, became the smiling woman in the reclining wheelchair many years later who, up to her death in 2012, still seemed to have an increasing impact on nearly everyone in their small town, from college students to waiters and concert-goers to sons and neighbors, and, most especially, to the husband who took a picture of her one day, decades before, in his beloved Pontiac.
I want things that are supposed to grow in influence and importance in my life to do just that over the years, as they did for my parents in so many ways. I want parts of myself and my world, of my family and friends that might have seemed small and easily overlooked once upon a time to gradually take over the frame I live out my days within, if those are the parts where the Shimmering Brilliance at the heart of all things is seen most clearly. That probably means my Pontiacs, whatever they might be, will grow smaller over time, as people come to matter evermore. But if an old Pontiac or parish church is how you traveled into my life…well, thanks be to God for those too. In the end, I suppose, there’s room for a lot in our portraits. Perhaps the key is to bring everything in our lives ever closer to its proper proportions. In fact, I’m beginning to think the meanings of words like “abundant” and “flourishing” and maybe even “beloved” and “sacred” are understood only as we do precisely that.
29 thoughts on “On Pontiacs & Proportions”
Scott, this is a beautiful reflection. I wish I could have known your mother. I have certainly enjoyed knowing your dad, and will miss him. Please give him my best as he moves to Silver Spring.
Thank you, Milton. Will do. And thanks for your kindness to Dad.
Loved reading this, Scott. Hope the tradition with your father goes as smoothly as possible. Peace to all
Thank you, Deborah.
Thanks, Scott, for that thoughtful
Reflection of your Mom and Dad’s life….I especially
Loved your words:”there is a beautiful
Essence in each of us.” How true…
I will pray for all your family group to have strength as you all make this transition….
Leaving will not be easy….. but oh!!
Those precious memories….esp the
So grateful for you and your prayers, Anne.
Your words “to bring everything in our lives to its proper proportions” is so very important. I’m fact, so much of what you have written needs to be taken to heart.
Hope all goes well with your dad.
Thank you, Ginny.
What memories! And what a beautiful way to express them! The photo reminded me of my Dad’s 1951 Chevrolet (with a similar GM body and style design). It was our family car until he bought a new Impala in 1962, and I inherited the old Chevy to drive to high school, college, and grad school. Finally sold it when I bought my first car, a 1969 Cutlass! The years and the generations roll on, and our memories of them are great blessings.
Love this, Ray! Thank you.
You have a wonderfully gentle way of expressing essential truths. Your heartfelt comments are a welcome example. Well done!
Many thanks, Bobby.
Thanks Scott. I still remember your father’s bible classes back in 1985-1988. His sense of humor and his bike . Over the years , after i returned to Costa Rica, i kept going back to NWA for business with Walmart and I saw your Dad and Mom around campus at JBU.
You should be proud of your parents.
How cool to hear from you, Alfonso! Hope you’re well these days.
I still remember the day I drove down Scott Street and saw the tail end of the “new” Pontiac. Of course the car guy that I am, I circled around to check it out. Then I learned the whole story.
Your Das seems content in his new digs. Hope all is well with all of you all.
Thanks, Frank. I remember you gawking at the Pontiac. Hope y’all are well too. Love to all 4 generations of your family.
Thank you Scott. This is so beautiful and I am thinking all of those experiences will stand out as you get older and wiser. I am thinking most of us feel as if we have a place in your heart. I know you have a place in mine and the more time ticks along, I am thinking the more I will appreciate it, along with all the other folk and experiences I am blessed to have!
Thanks, Zada. So true!
I’m moved by your beautiful, thoughtful reflection, feel privileged to read it. God bless your dad, and all of you who care for him.
Thank you, Linda.
Scott, I love this beautiful story about your parents and the love they had for each other. Best wishes for your dad in his new home.
Thanks, Jan! Love to you and John!
An amazing and moving story about cars, and love, and parents and how they can intertwine not only between the two of them, but the tremendous impact they made on everyone they came in contact with. AND THAT CAR!——what a cool car!!!!
Glad it resonated, Gary
Very loving reflection about Mom, Dad & the Pontiac. The Pontiac, I too had one in my life,
Dad had a ’53 Pontiac, two door, two tone. Traveled many miles, Newport, RI to Alemeida, CA,
and throughtout central Japan. We were a Navy family. I would love for you to text me a picture
of the ol’ Pontiac. Blessings
No way, Bernie! I need to show you the car sometime. Thanks for the kind words and lovely reflections of your own.
I had the joy of knowing your mom and dad both before and after the MS. They were a shining example of what loving for better or worse really means. Best wishes to your dad as he embarks on this new chapter.
Thanks, Allen. Best to you and yours as well.
“The parts of our lives we spend so much time, energy, and imagination forming to make a difference in the world are all gifts from God.” True and profound. Thank you, Scott Walters!!!