The Shirl—that’s what we call her. Named after Shirley Royer, my great grandmother. This lumbering yet stately 1999 maroon Buick Century, shared with my older brother, carries us the two hundred miles between our hometown and Cal Poly. The car itself is certainly no feast for the eyes, it’s giant, the color is ghastly, and it certainly isn’t a cute college car, but that is perhaps what we love about it most. It is efficient and practical, classic, vintage, and most importantly, holds significant nostalgic value for us.
It seems odd for young college kids to be driving such a car. Plenty of college students drive beater cars, yet none can top our Buick. Most are shocked to see that this car could belong to anyone other than an 80 year old man. It’s rather ironic.
With its ability to pack up to eight people this car is always the go-to for road trips. We call it the “couch on wheels” -- comfortable, safe, reliable, and still sporting it’s extremely dated bench seating and worn down, beige leather interior. A timeless beauty. Our friends don’t really get the joke though, and find it rather laughable that my brother and I actually drive this car around. But what they don’t know is what sentimental value it holds for my family.
The nostalgia is really what makes us love and appreciate this car. It belonged to our beloved great grandparents, Bill and Shirley Royer, prior to their deaths in 2011 and 2013. Because my great grandmother, Shirley died so suddenly and unexpectedly, she didn’t get to clean out the car, as I’m sure she would have preferred. We found small trinkets she had left behind in the car, including an old pair of her gloves, a mix tape, and a “Vote for Bill Royer” pin and business cards, saved from when my great grandfather was a Congressman. I always find it rather humbling to drive this car around knowing I am holding on to a small piece of my great grandparents. I don’t take the time to share the stories of my great-grandparents with enough people.
A car is a car, and while I don’t have a cute shiny white sedan to zip around the streets of San Luis Obispo, I have a car with a story.