We flew out of Toronto on the afternoon of December 5th. Much as I’d tried to get packed up well in advance the last couple of days were a whirlwind of activity and goodbyes. We started this journey with a few days in Buenos Aires; this will give us an opportunity to decompress a little before we head farther south.
In the midst of doing some wonderful things in the past few weeks – like going with Motti and David to see the film slumdog millionaire which was both disturbing and beautiful – a warning light popped up on my car’s dashboard. I drive a 1998 VW Cabrio convertible which I really love; it has style, it has pizazz, and driving around with the top down makes me feel free … and young. I still smile every time I get into that car. Driving oh so slowly to my mechanic I had a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Before long I knew that the feeling was justified as my mechanic advised me that it was time to get a new car or face several thousands of dollars of repairs in the next year. I’d hoped to hold off doing that for another few years but just as I can’t seem to control the ravages of aging on my body I also can’t seem to control the aging and demise of my car.
So – why is this such a big deal? Precious little has been written on how women identify with their cars. The standard wisdom is that this identification is a much more important point for men but I’m not buying into that. I’ve always really loved cars. Let me bring you a bit up to date on my personal car history.
My first car was a Skoda – made in what was then Yugoslavia – which my Dad bought for me a couple of months before my 16th birthday. I think the motor was a variation on what drives a lawnmower; when going up a hill with a passenger I’d have to ask them to get out and walk up and I’d pick them up at the top of the hill. If it was a really big hill, I’d have to go up backwards … I don’t know why there was more power in reverse but there was. Just after my birthday I came home one day to find my car gone; my Dad had sold it to a friend of mine (initial purchase price was $100 and he sold it for $125). Yes, there’s lots to “unpack” in there but best to let sleeping cars lie I think!
My next car was a Triumph Spitfire which my Dad had acquired as part of the sale of something else (no, he wasn’t a used car salesman … just liked to buy and sell and make a profit) and which he then offered to me and my new husband of the day. It was red (once we’d fixed it up and had it repainted) and it was quite wonderful. Every weekend we’d have to reset the timing on it though. My sister Molly, who was a wee thing at the time, would come over and help us with this each weekend … she was our “assistant mekanikee”. Good memories in that car.
The first new car I ever bought was a Peugeot 204. It took us cross-country several times; we were living in London, Ontario at the time but taking university courses in other places including California. The seats on that car would fold down flat so we could not only drive it from London to LA we could also use it as our mobile hotel room. That worked very well until the morning we were woken up by scraping at the window (thoughts of murderers rushing through our over-active imaginations) to find a Colorado State Trooper checking to see if, under the snow that had fallen overnight, we were alive. We also awoke one morning in the Peugeot to find ourselves surrounded by small, buzzing creatures; seems we’d car-camped in a bit of a swamp. In the end we gave that car to my brother-in-law who loved it as much as we did I think.
There have been several cars in my life since then. For a while I had an old Volvo; being true to type. I had a Plymouth Reliant station wagon and a Dodge minivan as my kids were growing up. In my mid 40’s I bought a Nissan NX sportscar which one of my students thought was my way of acting out mid-life crisis. Just after David and I got married I decided I needed something a bit bigger and safer than the NX (this conviction also grew out of a car accident I’d had in Scotland while travelling with my daughter Nili) and that’s when I bought the Cabrio. Part of my choosing a German car was my way of working through the remnants of resistance that I had to anything German given my background as a child of holocaust surviviors. It seemed important to me to show that I’d moved forward in my thinking (up to this point I’d done what many survivor families do and just shunned anything German-made) and buy a VW. So … this car also represented my own personal growth … as well as my sense of style and verve for living.
And now I need to move on. I read this morning, on another woman’s blog as she was reporting on some research they’d done, that “Women are in transition – whether a recent college graduate or a retiree, transition resonated throughout the interviews. Women’s life stages, mind sets and responsibilities are evolving and their vehicles need to transition to address these changes.” The freedom and joy I get from a convertible makes that a necessary component of whatever I buy. Over the past couple of years there have rented (on vacations) two cars about which I’ve said “I’m going to buy that next”; I’ve dreamt – intermittently … but not without recognition for my wonderful Cabrio lest it feel bad … about a red PT Cruiser convertible and/or a red Mustang convertible. Once I’d gotten over my shock at the bad car news yesterday I got myself organized this morning and started my car hunt and … wouldn’t you know it … a local dealer has a 2005 red PT Cruiser convertible on his lot. I went to see it, did a little test drive, made an offer … tada … there’s now a new car parked in front of my home! You might note my LOVEWINS license plate; David got it for me as a birthday present the first year we were together. A few years ago, to mark 5 years of happiness, I got him a LOVEWON plate. People are always smilinig at me and giving me a thumb’s up as I drive around; funny how even a license plate can cheer up someone’s day.
Is this whole new car thing symbolic? Not sure. Exciting? Yes … and no because it’s coming just at a time when my income’s been cut and the economy’s collapsing around me. I’m going to try to stay positive about this as one more way that the universe is signalling me that it’s time to move on to new things. Wish me luck! Want to join me for a ride?