I was never the kid in school who couldn’t wait to drive. The thought of commanding a machine on a road with all those other machines on the road wasn’t my idea of a good time. Anyway, I knew my parents could not buy me a car, and my friends did have cars, so there was no pressure on me to drive. When I finally did get my license when I was sixteen I either drove my mother’s giant green car, whatever it was, or begged and borrowed my sisters’ and brother’s cars.
One of my first trips on the road alone was to the Pizza Hut to pick up an order. I got to drive my brother’s green, 1970-ish Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with its white roof and white interior. Maybe I was so dazzled by all that funkiness, or maybe I was nervous to be on my own, but whatever the reason I left the food on the roof and drove off. Luckily I didn’t go far before realizing it so my food was saved, though my dignity was bruised.
My sister, the pesky one, drove an old car from the era of fine cars of the 1940s (or was it 1950s?) with the shift on the column, so she never had to worry about me wanting to drive her car. I wasn’t embarrassed by the car by any means, but the shifting was too intimidating.
The oldest of my family, my dearly departed sister, had a 1967-ish red Chevrolet Malibu. Its steering wheel was as big as a bicycle tire, and it only had AM radio, and like the song, it was “as big as a whale”. There was no power steering so to turn the wheels took some muscle. Needless to say I loved that car and I drove it whenever and wherever she allowed. I remember driving it in high school to the fire hall where my class met to decorate our homecoming float. There were about six of us in the front seat. Great car. My sister always told me she would give it to me one day, but then she had a baby, and for some senseless reason she thought her little girl should have it instead. Sheesh. I make a habit of reminding my niece about that as often as I can; like right now.
There was one more car I sometimes had a chance to drive. It was like the icing on the cake when my sister, the middle child, would generously grace me with the pleasure of driving her 1980-ish dark red Honda Prelude. It had a sun-roof. What an invention! It had a stereo system! It was a two-door dream machine with a tiny steering wheel. I could do a U-turn that would make any momma proud. Once, whilst driving it with my oldest friend and travelling partner in the seat next to me I didn’t turn quite sharp enough and I almost hit a light pole in front of John’s Car Care, but shhh, don’t tell the middle child. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
I credit the joy of driving that Prelude, and Just What I Needed blasting on the stereo, with filling me with courage and decision to get my ears pierced. Come to think of it that might have been the night of the light pole incident. The excitement of it all was overwhelming.
Alas, I was not to own a Prelude, or a Cutlass, or a Malibu. When I was a freshman in college my parents finally did buy me a car of my own. It was a 1973 blue Mercury Comet that reeked of cigarette smoke. “Oh, we can get that out”, my mother said (or something like that). No.
My daddy paid $500 for it in 1985, and I drove it for about six years until a paving truck hit it and bashed in the side door. I got $600 retribution for the door and a dealership gave me $500 for a trade-in. That was probably the most productive financial investment my daddy ever made. Well, actually if you call it a financial investment then it was the ONLY financial investment my daddy ever made.
I traded the Comet for a Mitsubishi Mirage which was a joy for me, but my baby son hated to ride in, then to a Chevrolet van which my baby son loved to ride in, to a Toyota Avalon, which my baby son now drives himself. So here I come full circle, needing a new vehicle of my own.
I truly enjoy my Toyota, so I’ve been looking at them, but the memories of that Honda Prelude have lingered all these years. I want once again to sit in the seat behind that tiny steering wheel, and feel that feeling only a Honda provides. It’s a feeling of self-assuredness, clear thinking, and the ability to make important decisions as quickly as it takes to make a precise U-turn in a single rotation of that tiny wheel.
Toyota or Honda. Decisions, decisions.
Today I offer thanks and appreciation to my husband, who nudged me into a decision by telling me to go drive a car he had been watching at a dealership where he does work. After five minutes or five miles, whichever is shorter, behind the tiny steering wheel, I said, yes, sure, I can drive it and be happy. Whatever (yawn, sigh). I had to play it down, you know. Cool on the outside, singing The Cars on the inside. The ink is dry, and I am now the title holder of a Honda of my very own. It’s a family friendly CRV, not a devil-may-care model like the Prelude; practicality won out over reliving my youth. Nevertheless, it is Just What I Needed.