Sunday, January 17, 2010
The Story of the Convertible Girl
I became a convertible girl.
Six years later, my father presumably beyond the impulse that had inspired the purchase, I learned to drive a stick on this car. To get it into reverse, I had to use all my strength to pull up on the gear shift and force it back into gear. It had a choke and a throttle around the steering column, both of which required some sort of just-right-and-not-too-much balance to keep the car running. The trunk had it's own tiny key, separate from the ignition key, and we only had one copy -- when it was open, the heavy trunk lid propped up precariously on a thin pole. There were no shoulder straps, only lap belts, and certainly no air bags or other safety features. I kept a scrunchie (it was the late 80s, people) around the gear shift to keep my long (ahem, permed) hair out of my face while I was driving. The top was manual, of course, which required getting out of the car and heaving the top up or down. And I loved every minute of it.
Thinking back, I can't believe my parents ever let me drive this car. But they did -- and through some clever scheduling of my piano lessons immediately after school during my senior year, I managed to drive this car to and from high school nearly every day. It didn't exactly make the boys fall all over me, but it sure made me feel cool.
While I was away at college, my dad sold the car -- I couldn't take it with me to school and my brother wasn't old enough to drive at the time, so I guess it didn't make sense to keep it. I suffered through graduation driving a used Ford Taurus (but appreciative for the loaner), then bought my own convertible after starting my job in the fall. The only way I survived that first year of teaching was by putting the top down when I left work at the end of the day and driving aimlessly around town to clear my head.
That car, the black Toyota Celica shown in the top left of the new blog header, also helped me lure my husband. On my welcome-to-class form the first day I saw him (did I mention he was the professor in my first class in grad school?), I responded to the question "Is there anything else I should know about you?" with "I drive a convertible." Within two weeks, I had to change into a different section of the class so that I could date him.
When we got married one year later, my husband and I made convertible ownership a family policy. Getting in and out of the low-slung car when I was 9 months pregnant was no easy task, but I was willing to manage. After Junius was born, we wedged a car seat into the back of the Celica and kept on driving. When my beloved convertible started to wear down (after a wonderful 12 years behind the wheel), we debated about getting a more practical wagon. But I think we both always knew we'd end up with the pre-owned Solara instead (see top right of header).
Driving that Fiat to high school 20 years ago, I never would have believed one day I'd have two car seats in the back of my convertible. But they fit great, the kids love it, and it makes my husband happy. It's also the perfect reminder to me that even though being a mom changes everything, I'm still the same girl I've always been.
So welcome to my convertible life -- where things move fast, life is always changing and every day is different, even when it's exactly the same. As long as the sun is shining and the top is down, I know we'll make it through with a smile.
Fiat photo from International Auto Parts.