As I write this I am sitting at DMV. West Randolph Street. Chicago, Illinois. So far doesn’t appear to be all that different than New Jersey. They are telling me I need to take the written exam even though it’s technically not a requirement (“agents do reserve the right to choose whether or not you take one”). So much for 36 years of driving experience. They took my picture already, so I guess they’re assuming I’ll pass. I’ve been here for a half hour. Read more
A few things came together last week which quickly launched me into a plan to accomplish my next goal. That goal is to have two cars, two pets, two people and the contents of a four-bedroom house packed up and transported to Illinois before the end of the summer. And no, I’m not running there. Although that actually seems less daunting. Read more
This weekend’s race is the Shelter Island 10k, Shelter Island, New York. You can read about it here. This will be my 14th time doing this race (15 if you count last year, when I ran the course the day before). This is by far my favorite race. But it is also emotional because for so many years my parents were there at the Finish Line cheering.
Life is short. We know this. And yet we are reminded again and again. We always think there will be one more time. Another chance. We take for granted the small moments only realizing long after they’ve passed that they were actually really big moments. Moments that we play over and over in our heads like a scene from a really good movie that has completely captivated us.
June is a difficult month. There’s the wedding anniversary that is now just a reminder of how we lost our best selves. There is this weekend when Father’s Day, my late father’s birthday and the anniversary of my mother’s death collide. There is the end of the school year; which has, in my house, become traditionally a struggle in squeaking out passing grades (or not) and trying to move on.
My father was from the Bronx. My mother grew up in Queens. The Bronx, home to the New York Yankees, was certainly the “cooler” borough of the two. As a kid, I’m not sure I knew anyone from Brooklyn. Historically, the Irish settled in the Bronx and Queens. Can’t recall ever going to Brooklyn. Although, my father told stories about horrendous subway rides back from a day at Coney Island – after sustaining blistering sunburns on his fair Irish skin – back before the train cars were air-conditioned. He always said he’d take me to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone. He never did.
Thirty-five years ago when I was nearing my 17th birthday, my dream car was a brand new Mercedes Benz 350sl. Red. Convertible. I just imagined the radio playing a favorite song and driving along curvy hills overlooking the ocean somewhere. Hair blowing in the breeze, not a care in the world. Freedom.
I might have been willing to settle for a “pre-owned car,” you know something like a 1965 Mustang (’65 because that was the year I was born, and I love significance and symbolism). What I wound up with was my mother’s old car. She got a new – well pre-owned although they didn’t call them pre-owned back then – Cadillac which I guess was her dream car, or as close to it as my parents could afford – or wanted to spend at the time with college tuition around the corner. I was mortified. Living in affluent northern New Jersey, all my friends were getting brand new Camaros or Firebirds and here I was with a nine-year-old mustard color Chevy with a rusted fender.
The dream and the reality (courtesy of Google Images).
I accepted it. I didn’t have the balls to object and demand something better. My father – as wonderful and gentle and loving as he was most of the time – would have kicked me into he middle of next week, if I didn’t express anything but gratitude for what I was given. He would have reminded me that growing up where I did skewed my perception; that having access to a car – any car – 100% of the time that I didn’t have to share with anyone else was a privilege bestowed upon the more elite 17 year olds. I also knew with the measly salary I earned at my part-time jobs, I wouldn’t have had enough to buy a better car myself, even if I saved every dime. So I kept my mouth shut.
A funny thing happen though. The boys at school thought my 1973 Chevy Malibu with the 350 cubic inch V8 was pretty cool. And I also learned that freedom came from just having a driver’s license, from being able to get from point A to point B by myself. And yeah, great driving music on the radio and a warm breeze through the open windows makes it that much sweeter.
The mustard-color Malibu died its final death about 3 weeks after my college graduation and I bought a 3 year-old Camaro. A step up. A car I picked out myself. Now I had my own car. And my own car payment and my own insurance premium. But holding on to that Malibu through college allowed me to save some money. Patience is important. The ability to put off immediate gratification for long-term gain, I learned, is the first sign of real maturity.
The “family car” that brought my daughter home from the hospital and saw me through 13 years, 3 dogs, numerous memorable road trips, and almost 180,000 miles was a hunter green 1999 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. When that died, I had my “affordable midlife crisis” purchasing a 2012 Fiat 500c. It was such a fun little car and my first convertible. I loved that car! It was the first car since the Camaro so long ago that was just mine. After my husband died, and the Fiat became our only car, I was faced with the reality of its impracticality. Driving my daughter and her friends and lacrosse equipment around in such a tiny car, just didn’t make sense. I made a very difficult decision to trade it in for a 2012 Honda CR-V. All-wheel drive, safe, roomy, practical. Mature adults make sacrifices (temporarily).
In less than seven weeks, my daughter is scheduled for her road test on her 17th birthday, just like I did. And like me, she will be getting her mom’s hand-me-down to drive. 100% access, all of the time (with a year of satellite radio!). And like me, joining the elite 17-year-olds. Her mom? Well, I bought a pre-owned 2015 Volkswagen Eos. 2015 because that was my first full year as a widow. Eos is the Greek Goddess of the Dawn. I love significance and symbolism. Plus I got a really nice deal. It’s as close to my dream car as I can afford – or wanted to spend right now with college tuition around the corner. It’s a convertible. It’s German. I outgrew red. After 35 years behind the wheel, I finally have what I want and deserve. I really earned this. Freedom.
Saddle River County Park, Paramus, New Jersey, February 2017