I thought I would miss it more than I do.
After 10 years, we recently sold my 1996 minivan. It was a good car, but I don’t miss it.
I don’t miss the soothing groan it made over and over every time I turned the key, while the ABS tried to engage.
I don’t miss that I never knew if it was green or blue.
I don’t miss the Pull-Up that I used as a lumbar support.
I have a brand new van and oh, it smells incredible. Not at all like wet dog. Yet.
I tell the kids to breathe in that intoxicating odor while it lasts. This is it for another decade, and if they’re under some misguided impression that they will get a new car when they turn 16, they can forget that fantasy right now.
No, they will drive a hand-me-down stick shift with a number of idiosyncrasies that will make them appreciate the brand new car they finally get when they are 37.
My friends and I all drove beaters in high school, and we’re better people for it. No one had a brand-new car back then, like kids do today.
Jeff Schulz drove a tank of a car that didn’t go into reverse. He strategically parked it where he could drive forward to get out.
Of course, everyone knew that Schulzie lacked reverse, so someone inevitably parked right in front of the tank, trapping him.
Sarah Dahlin drove a ’69 Plymouth Fury that could seat 14. Comfortably.
Anne Goldhorn drove a sporty diesel Chevy Impala with no heat. In South Dakota. In winter, she drove to school every morning inside a sleeping bag.
She used the cruise control to get from the farm into town, which was pretty much a straight shot, then unzipped so she could navigate the busy streets of Watertown.
While some didn’t have heat, all of our cars had a block heater that kept the engine warm so we could start the car in the morning. These heaters were recognizable by the power cord hanging out of the front grill.
Every winter night, dads across South Dakota would ask in unison, “Kids, did you plug the car in?”
My parents drove a tiny red 1980 Subaru station wagon for years before handing it down to me and then my sisters.
When I got the car it was still in pretty good shape, and Mom couldn’t understand why I kept burning out the clutch. I only recently told her that half of Watertown High School learned to drive a stick in the Subaru, including a few foreign exchange students.
I was late for a band concert once and screamed into the high school parking lot where my grandparents had just arrived. I stopped in the middle of the lot, grabbed my clarinet and tossed Grandpa the keys while I raced inside.
“Park it, Grandpa!” I yelled.
Grandpa hadn’t driven a manual transmission since World War II. He couldn’t find the lever to move the seat back, so he drove with his knees under his chin, grinding the gears into a parking space while Grandma convulsed with laughter.Of course we never got up in time to properly warm up the car, so I would drive Merilee to school in the morning screaming “Don’t breathe!” while we held our mittens over our mouth to keep the windshield from fogging up. Eventually, the defrost totally failed and my sisters just drove with the windows down.
The parking brake also eventually gave out. By this time, Mer and I were in college and Laura had the Subaru all to herself.
The police called her out of first-period physics one day to retrieve the car, which had rolled out of the high school parking lot and into the street, coming to a stop perpendicular to traffic.
The cops probably could have moved it themselves. I’m sure the keys were in it.
First gear, second gear and reverse all quit working while Laura was a senior, news she didn’t immediately share with our parents.
She would drive around in third and fourth gears, cutting through parking lots or gas stations to avoid coming to a stop at red lights while her friends chanted “Go Subaru, go Subaru” in the back seat.The color faded from red to a cheerful orangey pink over the years, and as my sisters became more passionate about animal rights, the Subaru turned into a moving billboard.A dozen bumper stickers read things like “Fur is dead,” “Love animals, don’t eat them,” and “Vegetarian: old Indian word for bad hunter.”My parents moved from town to the lake, and traffic would zoom by as the Subaru chugged along at 45 mph on its way to the lake. Any faster and the car shook.
The Subaru became a landmark, parked near the road to help “city” kids find their way to the lake house. It even welcomed our wedding guests when my husband and I got married in my parents’ yard.
Then one day I went home for a visit and the Subaru was gone. It was a good car.
We’ve got four more years until Henry learns to drive, and while I doubt we’ll put him in a car without reverse, heat or brakes, he’s not touching my new van.
But we do have a stick shift station wagon that’s eight years old with close to 100,000 miles on it. That will be just about right.
Kind of reminds me of the Subaru.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.
I thought I would miss it more than I do.