My first Nellie was a 1976 Toyota Corolla. I never really learned to drive by someone teaching me, I learned by watching other folks drive. A few years after college I was ready and passed my test with a minor error, I leaned to the side when I made the turn. The lady didn’t know I was a low rider, but she let me pass.
First car came from GMC, paid off and good credit rating to boot. She was just what we needed, for our family of 5 at the time. Everybody was little, and we didn’t have a bulky car-seat taking up room in those days. Unfortunately, she died for lack of lubrication over many, many months. Engine locked up and that was it!!
Found a New Nellie, a little while later. Great car for growing children and friends children too. We only had one issue with this one, the hatch had a tendency to not catch. So we would slam it extra hard till we broke it and then would have to repair it, especially after we lost a kiddie out the back door. Hairy scary times. I was speechless, how could I explain to the little boy’s mom, that he fell out the back of the car into oncoming traffic. The Angels saved him so he could live and continue to drive his family up the wall, but that’s another story. This Nellie had engine trouble early on. Had a great mechanic in the Northeast who did all he could, several times to bring her back to life. But she ultimately left us for the Great Car Heaven in the Sky but not after we got good use out of her!!
Now, here I vaguely remember another Nellie. But she was very, very short lived. Her engine caught on fire one day, and that was that. Another one bit the dust and went to the Great Car Heaven in the Sky.
Every Nellie was a gift in some way or other. They got me out of tight squeezes and provided a great service that I am still grateful for to this day. Whenever they broke down, there was always a car Angel around to help me out with a carload of children they were certainly heaven sent.
Then Came the Greatest Nellie Of Them All!!!
Why do I say that? Well, for a number of reasons, four reasons to be exact. My 4 younguns who were terribly embarrassed to rid in this New Nellie. Puuuulease!!! They simply did not realize that this New Ole Nellie was a Cadillac! I mean, power steering, disk breaks, power windows, air conditioning, seats that did all kinds of stuff. Who cared if she was once a cab??!! And for $50 and a title, who could beat that, especially since we had been walking and taking the bus everywhere. No one understands what it feels like to have the stares of well meaning folk pitying me as I would climb on the bus with 4 little people going in four different directions. The youngest did not like sitting next to anyone, the second oldest was always falling asleep and had to be awakened at least 20 minutes before we got off. The second daughter loved to wear her clothes and shoes on backwards…. um, before it was a style and the oldest one, well he was quite helpful, but he was just a little tike himself. I had 4 children in 6 years. Yay, me!!!! So imagine the adventure we went on whenever we boarded an inner train or bus.
To me this car was a Godsend… To my young’uns, quite the contrary. They were mortified, they were embarrassed, they hated that car!!! The jeers they got from neighboring children yelling “Taxi”!!! Jeez, children can be cruel, but that car was awesome, little did they realize they were riding in style in an expensive gift car, painted like a taxi.
And right around the corner, was a wonderful mechanic who did all he could to keep her on the road. I think that is why I am writing this blog post. I have certainly been blessed with cars right at the right time when they were most needed and when there was a wonderful mechanic not to far away. I’m talking about a mechanic that didn’t see a woman coming and decide to take advantage. I am talking about a mechanic who saw this woman coming with a carload of children and did all he could to keep me on the road with them.
Well as the story goes, Ole Nellie died and she stayed dead for 10 years. Imagine, ten years without a vehicle!! Living in the inner city did make it a bit easier, but I rode my bike and homeschooled during this time. We walked to wherever we had to go or took the bus, and again, they were a bit older, but not much different and certainly quite noisey. Nothing like the chatter of stairsteps, enjoying each others company or not!
It took Ole Nellie 10 whole years to re-incarnate. I would question myself as to why I was back on foot. Did I offend the Great Car Heaven God in the Sky by the way I treated his servant? Did I drive his servant into the ground, so now it was my turn to take another look and be more circumspect about how I would be treating Nellie, when she incarnated again?? I don’t know if I ever figured that out. Nevertheless, another gift came, and Ole Nellie re-incarnated as a Ford Station Wagon. It was once used as a cab but I dared not to tell my children. By now the boys were gone and only the girls remained. New/Ole Nellie was a blessing as well. Someone I knew had her and sold her to me for cheap. She only last 2 years but I was grateful to have her for that long. She blew a hose in her engine and caught on fire that would have cost more than she was worth to fix. I think I had her towed away, or sold her for parts but I don’t remember. Something about trauma and how it affects your memory.
But this time Nellie decided to come back a little faster this time around. She manifested as a 1988 Toyota Corona Station Wagon. And guess what, I paid $1 for her and the registrations fees. Long story short, she had been sitting there waiting for her other owner who moved away and never came back to get her. She was a gift from the Gods cause surely, I really needed a car so I could get to some of VOA events without having to spend money on rentals. Ha, I spent so much money on rentals I could have bought at least three luxury cars.
But of course the VOA folks love luxury, and preferred to ride in the new cars instead of my Ole Nellie, so many times we would pack them in the rental and I would take Nellie, we had an unbelievable bond, we did!!!! True story..
New/Ole Nellie lasted for about 2 or 3 years.. Again, I had a great mechanic who did all he could to keep her on the road. She was old and tired and while she was willing to get me from point “A” to point “B”, she didn’t feel like it all the time. So sometime we would leave her for another traveling option cause she was a bit finicky. But still a wonderful companion that I totally appreciated, especially for only $1!!!!!
She carried our VOA instruments and one day, someone decided to break into the car and take them out. Now that was the funniest ever. We could barely figure out why anyone would go through the trouble of stealing a bunch of African drums, agogo bells and shekeres that they could not sell on the black market. Ha, we could barely sell them on the open market. And if folks didn’t know how to use them or play them, then what??
We later found out that they took them to a thrift/boutique store who gladly took them off their hands, cause she knew what they were. Ironically, most folks aren’t gonna buy drums off the street peddler anyways. I mean really!!! And what would they do with this thing?
Well, it was late January, and after the news outlets were informed by my enraged daughter that we had been robbed, they all flocked to my door questioning us over and over again about this event. It had become a “Black History Month” Story that everyone wanted to tell. Strange indeed.
For an entire week, our lives belonged to the media, they were in our hair for 7 days straight. We had TV cameras in our faces, we were on the radio and we had a serious 15 minutes of fame, that brought folks out of the woodwork to donate drums and instruments to us, along with money to buy more stuff!! It was incredible!! The outpouring of love from the community was overwhelming and we went on tour with all new instruments but at least we had some!!!!! Even a Jewish Agency called us up and offered to raise money for us to get new instruments! Now imagine that!!!!!
I must say, that every single Nellie brought a wonderful experience with her. She did her part and made up for the parts she couldn’t do. Like she didn’t have an alarm so she was able to be robbed, but she got her picture took by NBC news and ended up in the paper and that made headlines. She smiled and I was so thankful for all her help!!!
And for a little bit of Poetic Justice, in May, a temporary office assistant arrived to work in the office. When I told her about the Event she said: “Oh was that your stuff?? My brother tried to sell it on the corner to some Africans who were walking by and they said they didn’t want it.” That was absolutely too funny. There she was working in the office of the person whose car her brother broke into and stole the contents. Which were partially found by the way.
Then Ole Nellie got the call.. It was a small call, a short call at first, a little kink here and another kink there, but she held off. She did not break down in some dark deserted place where I was in danger. And the few times she did break down, the Car Angel was right there to pull her through. Wonders…!! But she was old and tired. She had sat too long and it was a little harder for her to completely revive herself for the long journeys and traveling back and forth that I needed her to do. But she did give me a good trade in and with that she was reborn into my current New/Ole Nellie.
The current New/Ole Nellie had only been in my possession for approximately 11 of the 12 weeks she was under factory warranty, she decided to break down in NY city! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded, I barely had her and she was breaking down?? Of course the Car Angels showed up and tried all they could to figure out her problem but to no avail. She had to be towed. I had two choices, tow her to Philly, or get her fixed in NY. Triple A’s mechanic claimed to have fixed her, and after borrowing $300 from my godmother and driving home two days later, she cut off again.