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The End of the Road - The Story of My Trusty Sidekick, Oscar the Coleman Cooler

My sidekick Oscar - the Coleman Cooler

My sidekick Oscar - the Coleman Cooler

The other day my husband and I decided to clean up our "junk room". You know, that room in the basement where everything gets lost once it gets put there. We haven't cleaned it since we moved 4 years ago so it was a big chore.

Armed with a box of trash bags and ready to purge, we worked our way from one end of the room to the other. Keepsakes were consolidated, empty boxes were piled high, and tough decisions were made about what to keep and what to throw out. Quick work was made that day and we held no prisoners. If we hadn't used it in a few years and it held no sentimental value or wasn't needed for the house then it was gone.

As we made our way through stacks of bins and boxes we came across it. There, sitting dusty and dejected, behind the overflowing box of Christmas ornaments and under a stack of old camping blankets, was my Oscar Coleman Cooler. "Oscar!" I exclaimed! Finding Oscar put me in a quandary. Here was an item that, at first glance, fit the category of "throw it out". We hadn't used it in a while, it didn't work anymore and, according to my husband, couldn't possibly hold any sentimental value. Thrown into our trash pile, Oscar looked lonely and I started reminiscing.

I've had "Oscar" a very long time...since the mid 1980s. I haven't used him (yes, I'm referring to the cooler as "him") in a while. He's pretty stained on the inside and his kelly green top falls off, even with the handle locking it in place. Food hasn't stayed cool in Oscar for a long time. I can't remember a time in my teenage and adult years that I haven't had Oscar. He's been by my side through thick and thin and in happy and sad times.

Oscar is my sidekick and this is his story.

Oscar's early years

I got Oscar when I was in my teens. My best friend's family had invited me to go with them to the Mall in Washington DC for the fourth of July festivities. It was going to be an all day affair in the blazing sun. The Beach Boys were playing and the fireworks promised to be amazing. Needing something to carry my drinks and food in, my parents brought Oscar home from the store for me. He was bright and shiny and ready to help keep me cool in the 90 plus degree weather. Off I went, with Oscar in hand, but not before my mother made me write my name in big 5 inch letters on one side with permanent marker. Seriously Mom?! What were you thinking? Well, I can vouch for permanent markers because my name is still emblazened on Oscar's side for all to see and my mom was right...Oscar got lost a couple of times, but was always found because my name was on him.

I took Oscar with me that 4th of July and for many others to come. He was by my side at every summer outing, keeping drinks and food at a safe temperature. He came with me when a friend and I camped out for the rock band The Who tickets at the now long gone Capital Centre in Landover Maryland. Boy that was a good time, although I still can't believe my parents let me do that. What were they thinking?

There was no question that Oscar would be by my side when I headed south to college. He came home with me on every break and rode back to school in the front seat so I had easy access to one of the homemade goodies my mom had packed in him so lovingly. My college buddies thought it was great. Nobody had a cooler in the dorms so I ended up being the go to girl when we went off to campus concerts and parties. Not only did he keep our beverages icy cold and do double duty as a handy seat, his top could be flipped over to reveal two cup holders. Very cool! With that bright green top and my name on the side, he was always easy to find if the crowd got too rowdy and we got separated.

Oscar's middle years

I found a job in New York City when I graduated college. It was an exciting and scary time in my life and I set off on this new journey with mixed emotions. My parents took me down to Union Station in Washington DC and put me on a New York City bound Amtrak train. I had one duffle bag crammed full of clothes, a backpack with various necessities, my purse and Oscar, filled, yet again, with homemade goodies from my mom. With no place to live and not much money, I stayed in a sad seedy hotel until I could find an apartment. Oscar was my refrigerator in those early New York City days and when I finally found a dingy basement studio apartment I could afford, Oscar doubled as a chair and was my only piece of furniture until il I was able to get a few things. When I would go in search of the perfect tan, he'd sear in the sun in Central Park keeping my sodas cold.

5 years later we packed up and headed down the road and back to my roots in the DC area. Oscar began to get pushed further back in my closet, only coming out for an occasional adventure. He'd come with me to the beach every summer and the odd picnic or canoe trip. I was more successful then. I'd bought an apartment, worked 60 hours a week and didn't really have the down time I used to have. Life went on as they say.

Once I got married, Oscar was used less and less. My husband had a big fancy cooler and we only brought out Oscar when we needed more room or if we only needed a few drinks for a long car ride.

For a little while Oscar enjoyed resurgence in popularity. It was about 9 years ago when my mother fell ill with sepsis. She was really sick and touch and go for a while but she muscled through. Once she was home from the hospital, still frail and sickly, I would pack Oscar full of fresh fruit and homemade goodies and make the hour long trip to visit her. We even laughed about the times she would pack Oscar full of her homemade goodies for me when I went off on my journeys.

Oscar's sunset

Oscar has been as far north as Maine, as far south as Florida and as far west as Michigan. He's been a beach bum, a camper and he's seen many rock concerts. He's been on too many picnics to count, carrying food and drink wherever it needed to go. When my daughter was a baby, he'd carry her formula on our road trips. He's been with me as long as I can remember.

Oscar doesn't carry much anymore. Years of use as a seat has made his top so lose so that it falls off when you carry him and makes it impossible for him to keep things cool.

When my husband and I started the day determined to clean out our junk room I hadn't taken Oscar into account. We started to take those piles of unwanted things to the garage for the next trash pickup. Oscar went up too, but I haven't had the nerve to put him in the garbage can. I'm not really even sure I will. Right now he's sitting in the hallway patiently waiting. Maybe I'll find a hidden corner somewhere in the house and tuck him away for a little while longer. Maybe I'll throw him out next week. Who knows, he may even have another journey in him. I think I'll decide tomorrow.

© 2012 Claudia Mitchell

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