You never forget your first car. I know I will always remember mine—and for several reasons. First, I look back at that time in my life and realize I had no clue how much cars and insurance cost and how blessed I was to even have one on the day I turned 16. I didn’t work and save up money so that I could purchase my own car, I expected my parents (who both worked hard but did not have the funds to purchase their only child a brand-new car) to provide me with one.
Looking back, I realize that was pretty presumptuous of me. Instead, my stepfather purchased a used car for me in cash from one of his friends. It was a 1986 red Dodge Charger. At the time, it was seven years old, but age didn’t matter to me. It was sporty, flashy and gave me my own set of bragging rights. The handle on the driver’s side door was broken and I would have to jiggle it a certain way to open it. It was also a five-speed and I remember both the joy of learning how to change the gears and the fear of pulling up to a stop sign perched on a hill (I lived in the mountains of western North Carolina). Unbeknownst to my parents, my friends and I had plenty of adventures in that car, such as the time I got it stuck in a curvy, muddy ditch and a truck full of football players from our high school happened to drive by and lifted the car back onto the road on their own. Whoops.
I didn’t take care of that car like I should have. I wish I would’ve, because I’m sure I would have had many more adventures. Instead, I drove with reckless abandon like the teenager I was, and almost a year after I got the Charger, I took another one of those mountain curves too fast and crashed the car into a rock wall in front of a church. Miraculously, I only had a scratch on my neck from my seat belt. The car, unfortunately, did not make it.
I thought about that wreck when the time came for my own daughter to start driving. Even though she is about as cautious as they come, I know teenagers. Driving can be tricky business, and I know accidents happen. We discussed options with her and decided to let her take the car I had driven for years (a Honda Pilot) because, as we joke, that thing is a tank and about a solid as they come. She spent a year practicing driving this car, took her driving test in it, and I purchased a newer vehicle for myself. I’m grateful she understood that we wanted her to drive an older vehicle for at least a year, see how it held up and then see if we needed to find another car. The funny thing is, I dropped her off at school on her first day of Kindergarten in that car and she now drives it to high school. Talk about a dependable car.