Last July 11th my baby girl turned 16. By early afternoon we had driven to Gibbons to find a driver examiner doing road tests. By mid afternoon Hilary was legit. A newly licensed young driver. We haven’t seen her since.
Like me, Hilary is crazy about driving and all it symbolizes. Couldn’t get her learner’s permit fast enough. Couldn’t log enough hours behind the wheel. Couldn’t wait to turn 16.
Since the previous December she’d been making payments on a 1989 Ford Probe. She had her Oilers floormats in place along with a very chic survival kit. While awaiting her birthday the car was stored in the extra bay in my mom’s garage. Every so often Hilary would just go sit in the car and start it. For the good of the engine you understand.
I can only imagine what ran through her mind as she sat there. Freedom that only your own wheels can bring. A very visible sign of maturity and responsibility. Convenience. When you live five miles from town, even a pop with your friends takes some logistics. Or getting to your part-time job, especially for the 7 am shift. Can’t say we miss driving her to and from work. She drives with an unflappable confidence and maturity well beyond her years.
I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy. I grew up driving my parent’s vehicles — a 1969 Chrysler, a standard Datsun wagon, and a standard 1964 Ford pickup.
Married at nineteen, I then drove what would be series of “pre-owned” cars. The 1967 Rambler Ambassador bought from Government Surplus doesn’t strike me as a great first car. It was a plain jane, six cylinder, no frills BEIGE four door sedan retired from government service. It was also the first of several American Motors products we would buy that way.
I then went onto two full-size Oldsmobile station wagons complete with that lovely wood-grain ‘mactac’. The first dark brown, the second grey. As a pre-cursor to today’s mini-van they were very sound, reliable cars, great for hauling stuff. But style, pizazz, presence — I don’t think so.
Next came a 1984 Olds Custom Cruiser. Dark green, four door sedan. Despite a distinct lack of sex appeal it was serving me extremely well until 2 young thugs broke into it, hot-wired it and blew the engine during a day of joy-riding.
Today I drive a 2 door, light green 1985 Olds Custom Cruiser.
Did I ever in my wildest dreams believe I would drive a series of beige, brown, green and grey “family sedans/station wagons”? Not.
I saw myself in some flashy cherry red MG convertible. Or a 2 door silver Mercedes. Or a deep burgundy Lincoln. Somehow practicality and affordability always prevailed and I settled.
Do I miss never dreaming about, shopping for, factory ordering my very own new car? Damn right I do. From where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission