It has been a very hot summer in the Midwest. Many a morning I wake up and fetch the paper at 5 AM and it is already way too hot. It has been a hopeless battle to keep anything green alive. It has disrupted enjoyment of the outside. It has been summer weather squared. This week, however, we got a break.
Wednesday night, I met Dan and some friends for a cocktail and some delicious morsels. We sat around and talked and caught up for a couple hours. When I stepped outside to drive home, there was a coolness in the air that hadn’t been there when I entered. I walked to my car and did the thing that never fails to make me happy. Under the recent weather circumstances, it made me positively gleeful. I got in my car and put down the convertible top.
I never had a car growing up. I was a walker or a bus rider all through my elementary and high school days (there are a few of us who know the trauma of trying to find a seat on a school bus when you are lugging a french horn). Any time I needed a car as a teenager, I would arrange to borrow my mom’s.
In college, there was no car. We were lucky to have friends who would take us along to concerts or grocery stores. It was a whole lot easier to not have a car.
We spent the first year of our married life without a car. I would walk to work and Dan would walk to school. I have fond memories of Dan carrying a four foot artificial Christmas tree several blocks through the town, or with a case of long necks perched on his shoulder walking through town and to our apartment. We made do quite well.
When I got a better job that happened to be 30 miles away and not on a bus route, things had to change. I was lucky to find a few carpool buddies, but I still needed a way to get to the carpool rendezvous spot. At twenty-three years of age, we bought our first car: a 1973 Dodge Dart Swinger Special, green with a bullet hole in the windshield. We paid a classmate of Dan’s $250 for it. It was our first sweet ride, but it always kind of made me nervous. It was a car with a lot of miles.
We did upgrade. Before Dan graduated, we had a brand new Renault Alliance. It was red and cute and I was very happy and confident when I was driving that car.
Post Renault, a few other cars have cycled through the Ryan household – most with a particular memory that goes along with them. There was a two-door Pontiac Sunbird that I used to cart around three children in car seats. That one is famous for the stray dog incident. One day, I had opened both doors to ready the car for loading kids and car seats. When I came out to put in the first kid, there was a big dog sitting in the back seat. I am not a big dog fan, but I needed to go pick up Sam at preschool. I put the kid back in the house and went out to get the damn dog out of my car. He growled at me, so I decided Sam could wait. Animal control was called. The preschool was called. Eventually, the dog was gone and I retrieved a confused Sam who was thinking I had forgotten him.
We’ve had a station wagon and a car with fun automatic seatbelts. We have had some classic used Volvo sedans; one that I got to trick out with a Grateful Dead sticker. We had a Buick Century that used to haul lots of Girl Scouts around. When I got my job at the hospital, I got my very own first new car. It was a Daewoo that promised to be a good little car with a good maintenance package and good mileage. Seemed great until the company went out of business months after I bought it. There was a Geo Prism that Dan drove and then both Sam and Ali made theirs. It was a good car.
What I am coming to is that I have driven cars in the past and have liked some more than others. But until I got my current car, I have never known car love. I was driving my Daewoo about 5 years ago and was T-boned by another car pulling out of a driveway. Neither of us was hurt, but Daewoo was a goner.
We talked about how we should replace it. We tended towards the used car lot, but Dan said, no. He pointed out that I had always wanted a particular car and this was the time to get it. So we did. We went to the Volkswagon shop and I bought a 2007 Volkswagon Beetle Convertible in Harvest Moon. It was, and is the cutest car ever. There is not a day that I don’t get in that car and smile. After even the worse day, getting in that car and putting down the top yields a sunnier mood. With the heat of this summer, I admit, I have given in to the a/c more days than I have convertibled. But the other night, driving through Kansas City, at dusk, with the top down, I smiled the entire way home and was in deep, deep car love.