Before we loved Lucy, we loved Lila—
a 1992 Cadillac DeVille, owned only by the aging Poppies.
Lila was our first car together—$500 and pristine as the sugar white sands
of the Emerald Coast
with red-leather seats and curves of shiny chrome.
She took us to Heaven and back—
Heaven being the surf and sound sides of Pensacola Beach.
We never pierced her with cigarette ashes or tattooed her with bumper stickers,
however strategically placed.
Come morning, her top would be sprinkled with the crepe myrtle
and moist with the dew.
Lila’s character became more dear with every ding and scratch,
the chip in her windshield like the dimple of Shirley Temple.
Sometimes her perfume was Chick-Fil-A;
at others, the darkest roast at Starbucks.
She was there when we found our first home
and when I went back to school.
She was our shelter from the summer thunderstorms,
our cool respite from the oppressive, breathtaking humidity,
and the hearth that kept us warm during the icy, snowless cold of Southern winters.
She was our metal parasol from the golden globe that warped our milk chocolate bars
like the timepieces in Dalí’s, The Persistence of Memory.
She brought us home from our simple little wedding,
her rear windshield saying “Just Married” in soapy, green paint,
and carried us away to our honeymoon at home, for home was Paradise.
She shuttled me to the hospital when, after a jalapeno burger with Cajun fries at Five Guys,
I went into labor and gave birth to our baby girl—our Hannah Banana Beth.
She was there to pick me up,
cradling our newborn like a porcelain doll.
The interior panel lights with her emblem were like the tusks of elephants
and added to her beauty;
her functionality was in her large trunk where we often packed fried chicken and potato salad
and glass bottles of RC Cola on ice.
She was the vessel who sailed me over the Three Mile Bridge
to the sparkling town of Gulf Breeze
where I would meet up with my WriteOn! Pensacola group—
a scenic drive during which I would listen to the local radio host
who was like a friend I had yet to meet,
the windows down, tangling my hair.
For my birthdays, she brought me to the boardwalk at the Cactus Flower Café;
for Christmas, she bore gifts only she was large enough to hold.
Like a priest, she heard all our arguments and make-ups and worries about the future.
She knew what we ate, the kind of music we liked, the things that made us happy or sad.
She was independence and the first car I owned who completely belonged to me.
She passed from her second life as an auto,
donating her organs to the local junkyard to be recycled,
though we still have photos of her and some of her jewelry in a shadowbox above our mantel.
Though we’ve moved on in different directions,
we, with another addition to our family and she, with a repurposing of her life,
we will never forget you, Lila, for you were our first.
The Richards family