There’s single lane country road near my house. It doesn’t have sidewalks or businesses, and there are only a few houses a good acre or so off the road. When I’m by myself in the car, I turn the corner to get on the road, then floor the gas pedal. When I get to 80, I slam on the brakes for the sharp left corner, then drive the rest of the way at normal speed.
I did it for the last time yesterday. I won’t do it anymore. But for the past couple of months, I just wanted to experience how good it feels to drive.
At intersections, I get looks because I blast my Bose sound system with the moon roof open. Passengers in other cars pulling up next to me do a double take. Isn’t she too old to be playing music that loudly? They wonder. Is that a car seat she has in the back?
The three preschoolers I take five mornings a week to school, with their car seats and booster seats, are now used to the moon roof and the loud music. The two sisters I drive ask me, once in a while, “Auntie, what happened to your red car? The one that looks like Mommy’s car?”
“I don’t have it anymore,” I explain. “I traded it in.”
The eldest of the bunch crunches her nose up. She feels slightly betrayed that I could make such a big change without consulting her first.
The first few weeks after I got the car, my 10-year said– “I keep looking for the minivan when we come out to the parking lot. I keep forgetting we don’t have it anymore.”
“Really?” I’d say. “I’ve never once looked for the minivan.” Because once I got rid of it, I swear, it’s like I never even had one. I barely remember what it was like to drive it. My gym parking lot has about a million red Toyota Siennas. When I see them as I come out of yoga, I feel about as attached to them as I do a bulldozer.
My male friends shake their heads at me. “Why would you get rid of your minivan? It was such a great car.” I roll my eyes. Their wives drive their minivans. They drive their sports cars or their more masculine SUVs. They would never drive a minivan full time.
I worried that my parents, who visit regularly, wouldn’t feel comfortable with all seven of us crammed in the car. “It’s fine,” they said. “This car should be about you, not about us.”
When my kids aren’t looking, I remove the magnet on the back that proudly declares the name of their elementary school. They find it in the garage, later, among heaps of tools. “How did this come off the car?” They ask me. I shrug my shoulders, fake cluelessness. The truth, is that as much pride as I have in their elementary school, this car is my car. The minivan was their car.
This car is about me.
On Christmas Eve, we traded my minivan in for a Mazda CX-9. It is black, the only color I have ever found acceptable for cars. When I saw it in the showroom, it already had a red bow on it. It looked so similar to the Saab I drove for thirteen years, that I told my husband I thought my Saab had been reincarnated.
I didn’t even look back at our minivan when we pulled out of the parking lot. Our last baby came home from the hospital in that minivan. You would think I could have mustered some sentimentality for it– but I couldn’t.
My husband– who is one of the only people (aside from my father) who understands how much I love driving, who gets that I have relationships with my cars– said, “You know, you are you in this car.”
“I know,” I said. Because he was right.
Some people are what they eat. I am what I drive.