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6.26.2012

Artifacts of Life: Consuelo Roland's Zuccarini Anglia

The Chicago Tribune calls Dawn Raffel’s The Secret Life of Objects "a personal catalog of mementos, talismans and heirlooms, all made meaningful by the passing of time." This month, inspired by Raffel's stunning memoir, we’re inviting writers and readers to share thoughts and memories about artifacts large and small that connect them to important people, places and moments.

From Consuelo Roland, author of The Good Cemetery Guide:

The last online survey I participated in wanted to know when I was planning to buy a new car. I considered stretching the truth by opting for ‘< 10 years’ but $7 didn’t seem worth it so I selected ‘never’, and that was the end of it. ‘Oops,’ the automatic responder messaged, ‘You do not qualify for this survey.’

And yet, some weekends ago I visited a wine estate that boasts the biggest collection of collectors’ automobiles in South Africa, and even I was impressed. Some jolted the senses more than others; the brilliant-red prancing horse Ferraris, the sleek silver Mercedes cabriolet voted the most desirable motor car ever manufactured, and the glamorous two-tone automobiles beloved by Hollywood producers. But the heart-stopper for me was a khaki colored Anglia. It wasn’t just the pugnaciousness of it – as if it might jab and feint its way between its pedigreed high-octane brethren after midnight – it was that I recognized it, or should I say, my soul recognized it with the over-the-top unseemly enthusiasm of a small child.

– I know you! I’ve never seen you in the flesh – pardon me, the metal – before, but I definitely know you. You’re my parents’ Anglia! You’re the first car they ever owned!
– My goodness, am I really?
– Well, not you exactly, but a little gray version of you ...

Things tend to look gray in black and white family photographs. There was my mother, as pretty as Gina Lollobrigida without sunglasses, looking out the window at something or someone, a moody sailor on a land-bound yacht. In another photo her husband, about to become my father, rested against the sturdy Anglia, as if it represented a permanent beacon in the new country.

They were inordinately fond of that car. The word ‘Anglia’ sang of liberation; liberation from war and hunger, liberation from icy winter weather and bicycles.

Years later a modest car on display sends me home with a mission. When I finally locate the Anglia in a box of family photos I squint in puzzlement at the name on the bonnet. Closer observation with reading glasses establishes that my Italian immigrant parents’ first car was a ‘Consul’, not an ‘Anglia’. Further research reveals both cars were Ford models and similar in appearance, although the other one (not the Anglia) will end its production run as the cheapest car ever mass-produced. But for once in my life I don’t fight the disconnect between history and memory, reality and the dream.

The car in my family’s photographs is a little gray Anglia; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Consuelo Roland left the information technology business to pursue her career as a writer. Her latest novel, The Good Cemetery Guide, has been called "quirky, fast-paced, and imaginative." Visit Consuelo online at www.consueloroland.com.


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