One could easily make a timeline of their life by the cars they’ve driven. We remember life by experiences, many of which involve our cars. Family vacations, first dates, driving away after your wedding, bringing home a new baby, driving home from divorce court, more first dates, etc.
MOM, SHE WON’T STOP TOUCHING ME!
I learned to drive in my parent’s 1970-something AMC Hornet Sportabout, lovingly referred to as “Horny” in our house. It was a puke-yellow color with wide wood paneling along the sides. I spent so many miles and hours in that car sharing the back seat with my two sisters who, I truly believed, if they touched me one more time, my head would explode. But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, because at least the car ride would be over.
My mom kept a little red corduroy pillow in the car at all times. She would put it behind her back when she drove so she could reach the pedals. I can still picture her with the pillow and sitting up super straight to be able to see over the steering wheel. I wished and wished upon every star and birthday candle that I would grow enough by the time I could drive that I would not have to use that pillow. I did. No pillow, and sitting in a seat where no one touched you. My life was forever changed.
INDEPENDENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY ARE BORN
My first car was a used 1982 Ford Mustang. Whatever vision of a Mustang popped into your head, it was not that Mustang. It was brown, really brown, the color of…, let’s just say it was not a pretty shade of brown. The body style didn’t resemble the Mustangs of the past. It was kind of like there had been some sort of secret tryst with a Pinto and out came my car. Ugly as it was, it was MINE. I was 19 and free.
My new car buzz was quickly killed when I went to pick up my license plates and, I kid you not, they said PMS 812. PMS! I was horrified and it became an on-going joke for all of the years I had the car.
In those days, with the car also came a thick payment booklet. I had a monthly payment of $99 for about three years. Every month, I would tear off a sheet on the perforated line and send it in with my payment. At first, it seemed like I would be paying it forever but, after a while, it started to get noticeably thinner and thinner. I will never forget the feeling of making that last payment, and then receiving the title to my car in the mail. It felt like the biggest achievement I had ever experienced.
People don’t have payment books any more, but I wish for every young adult the feeling of accomplishment, pride, and confidence when that last check or that last electronic payment has been sent. My parents always said that anything that is really hard to do builds character. It really irritated me at the time, but it is actually 100% the truth.
“ME” BECOMES “WE,” THEN “US,” THEN BACK TO “ME”
The Honda Accord was next because it was supposed to be a really safe car and a baby was coming. Then the Honda Odyssey minivan because another baby was coming. After that, a couple of SUV’s with third rows for car pools, hauling sports gear, and driving safely in the snow.
Once the kids were gone, I had a couple of smaller SUVs. I was not ready to give up the feeling of being up high and in a big car, but forgoing the third row and not having stray food wrappers, fries, and water bottles under every seat was a sweet sensation.
I recently bought my first sedan in more than two decades, a 2018 Audi A3. I love this car. The price was something of a stretch and I have my monthly payments again. But, it is mine. No one else drives it or rides in it with any regularity. It is all about me. Secretly, I’ve named her “Syd” because, growing up, I always wished my name was Sydney. Syd reminds me that I can make things happen. I can wish for something and then go out there and find a way to make it happen.
It may be a little different when I get to that last payment again, but it will certainly still be sweet.
I wonder what my next car will be and how it will represent where I will be in my life. Hope it’s not a Pinto…or a Hearse.