First, there was Mr. T. My first car. A beat up, rusted out old ’82 Dautsun Maxima, with an inoperable rear door, a horn that sounded like a Smurf being squished by Gargamel, and a sun roof that I kept open most days of the year.
I loved that car. I have so many fond memories of driving up and down the beaches of South Carolina with my girlfriends, sun roof open, music blaring through the open windows. I drove that car till the exhaust system rusted out of the bottom. I remember driving up the hill to my apartment after work one day and hearing a decidedly sinister “Screeeeee” followed by an even more deadly “THWAAMP.” As I coasted into my parking spot, I looked in the rear view to see a large chuck of rusted metal that used to be attached to the belly of my Maxima.
It was the day Mr. T died.
About a month later, Brian and I moved into our first apartment together. We went another three months with no car to speak of. Finally, in the throes of a winter snow storm, we bought our next car–a burgandy 1997 Buick Skylark. It had a giant crack that spanned the entire width of the windshield, a sagging interior fabric that we eventually ripped out, and a heating/AC unit that didn’t work. But the engine was good, so we bought it from a friend for $600.
As much as I had adored Mr. T, I absolutely hated this car. It was long and low to the ground, and had terrible visibility. More than once, I drove it up over a curb, or onto the textured pavement at the edge of the median, teeth rattling. It got us from school and work to home again, and allowed us some freedom in our little college town. And eventually, the monstrosity drove us the 300 miles from Boone to Charleston.
We sweltered through our first summer here, with no AC and black interior. We drove that car to the beach house in September of 2004, where we said our vows with our toes in the sand. And on the day we loaded it back up to drive back home, it died a not-so-quiet death, right there in the Red and White Grocery Store’s parking lot.
A few days later, we drove home in our used-but-new-to-us 2002 Chevy Malibu.
Now THIS car…this one, I liked. It had great acceleration, a decent sound system, and best of all, air conditioning.
I was not, however, a fan of the baby poop brown color of the interior. I wasn’t too keen on the beige paint color, either.
Our bliss was plain on our not-red-from-being-overheated faces. Brian would come in from work beaming from ear to ear. “Look, honey, my shirt isn’t soaked from sweat!” Oh, how we praised that Malibu and her sweet, frigid air.
It lasted less than a year before she took that gift away from us. And so, off to the dealership we went, driving our steamy-hot Malibu with us. Our objective had been to get the AC fixed, until we were told it would cost more to repair it than the car was worth.
Several hours of nerves and anxiety sitting in the sticky naugahyde chairs of the car salesman’s office, and finally, they gave us the keys to our shiny new 2005 Pontiac Vibe. It had less than 30,000 miles on it, and if you breathed in really hard, you could still ALMOST smell that new car smell.
What a vehicle. Roomy, comfortable, great gas mileage, all in an adorable little package. And yet, we were still a one-car family. My job, and our income, didn’t have enough wiggle room to include a secondary vehicle. And so, yet again, we drove off the lot in a used vehicle that we hoped would last.
And it has. We’ve driven this car up and down the Eastern seaboard, from the theme parks of Orlando to the mountains of Tennessee. We’ve loved it the whole way. And not too long ago, we actually put the 200,000th mile on our beloved Vibe.
Still, I yearned for the freedom I had when I drove Mr. T–the freedom to drive to the beach on a whim, the wind in my hair, the rust raining down into my hair.
This past weekend, we finally made those two-car-family dreams come true. Brian drove home a gorgeous, BRAND new, 2014 Chevy Cruze, in dark metallic blue. And guess what?
It has a sun roof.
Life has a funny way of coming full circle. Sometimes it just takes 15 years or so.