And then, today, looking at my AAA card, I realized, this is my 10th anniversary of driving, and I realized that deserves its own entry. I vacillate between loving to drive (when I haven't done it in ages and I'm dreaming of road trips) and hating it (when I actually am on a long drive, getting tired and sick and tickets), but I remember the feeling of first getting my permit - pure freedom. Freedom to drive with an adult before 9pm. I could not have been more excited. I used my parents' old car, a 1995 Blazer, and begged them to let me paint it bubblegum pink. They didn't let me, but they did paint the toe-hitch on the back hot pink with spray paint, so that was okay, too. The first time I drove on the roads was the afternoon of my permit test. My father took me up my road, and through some communities without much traffic. But, neither of us really knew where we were going, and we accidentally ended up on Wood Street, a somewhat more trafficked road that is very straight and easy to drive on - until you hit the end, where it turns into a steep hill with hairpin turns. I went about 5mph the whole way, nails gripping into the steering wheel. As soon as we reached the end, I pulled over and my father drove home. I'd never been so scared in my life.**
But, I plowed on, and learned to drive pretty well, finally passing my driving test on the second try.*** From there, it was endless trips to Friendly's, longer trips up the Taconic to Fahnestock and beyond, and eventually, long trips to New Orleans and Bar Harbor. There were a few bumps in the road - I was rear-ended pretty badly in that Blazer about a year and a half after I got my license, I've gotten two tickets, gas prices went through the roof - but overall, the privilege of driving has never been lost on me. A year after I started driving, for my 17th birthday, my parents generously bought me a new-to-me car, my baby, my forest green 1997 Mustang convertible. The day my father pretended he went to his friend's to look at it but didn't buy it, and then tossed me the keys is still one of the highlights of my life.
|This is a good example of my parking skills. And my high school fashion sense.|
For me, the car has been so much more to me than just a mode of transportation. It has represented mobility and freedom, the near-endless generosity of my family, and the deeply idyllic nature of my childhood. And god, it's just so cool. Here's what I mean: Have you ever read that great Hairpin article about American Girl Dolls? I think it's hilarious, and so accurate. I had Samantha. Hairpin says: By virtue of acquiring a status symbol early on (a Samantha doll was the designer jeans of third grade), you never quite had to worry about things the way other girls did. You therefore grew up to be confidant, capable, and nonplussed. You've always been well liked. You aren’t the funniest in your group, but you’ve never really noticed or cared. It's true, and the Mustang is exactly the same. Were there kids at school who had nicer, newer cars? Absolutely. Could I have possibly cared less? Absolutely not.
I still think there's nothing cooler than rolling down the top, putting on a hair scarf, and hitting the road. Even though it's increasingly rare now, and even though I'm more likely to be listening to NPR than the Beach Boys, every time I get into the car, I'm reminded of all that's made it mean so much to me. I think back to all the times I drove it barefoot, wearing a swimsuit, the times Roger and I made out in the front seats, all the miles of pavement we've covered together since 2003. When my parents suggested I sell the car to Roger last year, and buy a car I also really wanted (a Subaru), one that would actually drive in the snow, I cried.**** It wasn't about giving up the car. It was about giving up everything the car means to me - in a word, youth
*Get it? Mustang - saddle? ha. ha.
**Except for the time I woke up in a pure panic because I knew someone was standing over me, about to shoot me. And then I finally worked up the courage to turn on my tv for light, and it was on a channel with John Edward talking to a woman whose father had stood at the foot of her bed and shot her. Yep. I'm psychic.
***Where we live, it's pretty hard to pass on your first time. The only person I know who did it was Shelby. She rocked that test. She also really knows how to drive standard, not just "knows how to drive standard in an emergency" like me. And, now that I've typed this all out, I realize Shelby just let me know yesterday that she bought a new car. This entry is coincidental, but hopefully she'll talk more about hers soon!
****I know I'll have to give the car up when we leave, and get a more sensible one, and I'm more comfortable with that now that I don't drive everyday. I know we'll always have our memories, and this one super-hip picture together!